How to Start Travel Nursing: How Can I Tour the US as a Nurse?

By gabriel



Travel nurses are becoming a fabric of American society as they undertake assignments, serve understaffed establishments, and ensure faster healthcare nationwide. In return, such nurses earn significantly and enjoy special regard among peers — not to mention the thrilling exploration of numerous states. Speak of Columbus providing healthcare on board Santa Maria! 

What’s better? Becoming a travel nurse is a straightforward affair, and you can readily find numerous specialist agencies with excellent job placements for travel nurses. Want to find out more? This guide covers the fundamentals of becoming a travel nurse, including how to start, recommended staffing agencies, and considerations in your next travel nursing assignment.

Key Takeaways

  • Travel nurses enjoy a lucrative career with high weekly salaries, assignment flexibility, and tremendous growth prospects.
  • Travel nursing contracts can be as short as six weeks and as long as 52 weeks.
  • Travel nurse staffing agencies specialize in helping travel nurses find the ideal job placement.

How Much Do Travel Nurses Earn?

Deriving a definitive figure for travel nurses’ salaries in the US is challenging due to the varying causal factors, including the state, shift type, experience, and the employer.

Nevertheless, an Indeed survey covering 63k salaries reports that travel nurses average $109,398 annually. Various reputable nursing organizations support this figure, so we may safely agree that travel nurses earn far higher than standard nurses, averaging $75,330. 

Below is a Ziprecruiter table showing the mean annual and average hourly wage for travel nurses by state.

State Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
Alabama $56,502 $4,708 $1,087 $27.16
Alaska $72,501 $6,042 $1,394 $34.86
Arizona $59,974 $4,998 $1,153 $28.83
Arkansas $61,910 $5,159 $1,191 $29.76
California $65,327 $5,444 $1,256 $31.41
Colorado $65,726 $5,477 $1,264 $31.60
Connecticut $76,662 $6,389 $1,474 $36.86
Delaware $65,124 $5,427 $1,252 $31.31
Florida $54,530 $4,544 $1,049 $26.22
Georgia $57,855 $4,821 $1,113 $27.81
Hawaii $76,812 $6,401 $1,477 $36.93
Idaho $61,250 $5,104 $1,178 $29.45
Illinois $61,576 $5,131 $1,184 $29.60
Indiana $59,589 $4,966 $1,146 $28.65
Iowa $57,406 $4,784 $1,104 $27.60
Kansas $69,138 $5,762 $1,330 $33.24
Kentucky $63,334 $5,278 $1,218 $30.45
Louisiana $58,155 $4,846 $1,118 $27.96
Maine $60,800 $5,067 $1,169 $29.23
Maryland $69,629 $5,802 $1,339 $33.48
Massachusetts $77,258 $6,438 $1,486 $37.14
Michigan $61,631 $5,136 $1,185 $29.63
Minnesota $59,965 $4,997 $1,153 $28.83
Mississippi $64,810 $5,401 $1,246 $31.16
Missouri $60,099 $5,008 $1,156 $28.89
Montana $60,597 $5,050 $1,165 $29.13
Nebraska $68,359 $5,697 $1,315 $32.86
Nevada $71,929 $5,994 $1,383 $34.58
New Hampshire $68,683 $5,724 $1,321 $33.02
New Jersey $61,132 $5,094 $1,176 $29.39
New Mexico $56,445 $4,704 $1,085 $27.14
New York $71,117 $5,926 $1,368 $34.19
North Carolina $56,025 $4,669 $1,077 $26.94
North Dakota $72,741 $6,062 $1,399 $34.97
Ohio $59,407 $4,951 $1,142 $28.56
Oklahoma $63,534 $5,294 $1,222 $30.55
Oregon $69,790 $5,816 $1,342 $33.55
Pennsylvania $60,768 $5,064 $1,169 $29.22
Rhode Island $74,057 $6,171 $1,424 $35.60
South Carolina $65,746 $5,479 $1,264 $31.61
South Dakota $70,616 $5,885 $1,358 $33.95
Tennessee $59,840 $4,987 $1,151 $28.77
Texas $59,200 $4,933 $1,138 $28.46
Utah $58,749 $4,896 $1,130 $28.24
Vermont $64,638 $5,387 $1,243 $31.08
Virginia $67,462 $5,622 $1,297 $32.43
Washington $72,374 $6,031 $1,392 $34.80
West Virginia $61,814 $5,151 $1,189 $29.72
Wisconsin $59,425 $4,952 $1,143 $28.57
Wyoming $63,730 $5,311 $1,226 $30.64

Travel Nursing

What Entitlements Can Travel Nurses Enjoy?

Travel nurses can gain substantial benefits, although your staffing agency and recruiter have a say here. Notwithstanding, standard advantages include corporate-matched 401k retirement plans, education reimbursement, health insurance, liability insurance, and bonuses.  

How Long Are Travel Nursing Contracts?

Travel nursing contracts may last for six weeks only but may extend to 52 weeks, assigned in 13-week blocks. Additionally, hospitals can end or extend contracts according to needs and the nurse’s performance.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse can access the following benefits: 

Higher Salaries

As initially mentioned, TNs average $109,398 yearly, dwarfing the $75,330 average for standard RNs. Not to note that the former may earn up to $5,000 weekly if they secure an excellent placement in the high-paying states.

Nice Perks

A travel nurse may sometimes enjoy a few extra advantages, such as housing stipends, transportation levies, allowances, and tax-free earnings. 

Career Advancement

Travel nursing offers the opportunity to work in various settings, from small rural hospitals to large institutions. Subsequently, it’s an excellent way to improve specialization, develop new skills, and socialize. Such an experience also favors your application for a Master’s or Doctor’s in Nursing.

What Are Some Downsides of Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses may have to cope with these shortcomings: 

Travel logistics

Moving from one assignment to the next involves moving, adjusting to time changes, reworking insurance contracts, finding new physicians, and adjusting to your new way of living. Such changes may be unbearable if frequent. 

Tax implications

Working in more than three states in a calendar year requires filing multiple state returns. You may have to hire a CPA (certified public accountant) instead of a traditional tax preparer at a higher cost.


Not all states are members of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact. For non-participating states, you will seek to hold an active and unrestricted license to practice nursing in that state. Luckily, your future employer or staffing agency may help by managing the paperwork and covering the cost of licensing fees.

Unstable Income

Although some travel nurses earn over $5000 a week, switching work assignments could cause slightly inconsistent income. For example, moving from a high pay rate state like California to the lower-paying Idaho will reduce earnings.

Plus, you may see breaks lasting weeks when moving from one assignment to the next.

What’s the Projected Demand Growth for Registered Nurses and Travel Nurses?

The US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 7% growth in nursing employment between 2019 and 2029. Now’s an excellent time to become a travel nurse!

What Is the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC)?

The eNLC is an initiative of the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) that allows RNs to practice in multiple states without obtaining different licenses for the states.

The agreement covers participating states (or nursing compact states). A nurse with an established primary residence in an eNLC state can obtain a compact nursing license in other states.

What States Form the eNLC?

Here are all participants in the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

How Do I Start Travel Nursing?

The following steps can see you through college to getting your first placement as a TN:

Enroll in an Accredited Nursing Program

Enroll in a school licensed by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the American Association of College of Nursing. Accreditation from these two organizations ensures the highest quality education standards and a guaranteed seat to take the NCLEX exam upon graduation.

Pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)

The NCLEX-RN is a test by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) that nursing students must complete to become registered nurses. This exam covers your course outline throughout nursing school, divided across eight nursing subfields, including safety/infection control and pharmacological therapies.

Receive a Nursing License

Suppose you pass the NCLEX-RN, you’ll receive a temporary license within days and a permanent one within a few weeks. Receipt times vary by state, so check with your state’s nursing board for exact time frames.

Earn Certifications

Boost your career prospects through nursing specializations. Available fields include geriatrics, medical-surgical, neonatal, operating room, cardiac care, and hospice. Follow up with at least a year of practicing as a full-time RN.

Find a Travel Nursing Staffing Agency

Travel nurse staffing agencies represent you in finding employment across a massive network of clinics, hospitals, and other health care settings. They also provide housing or arrange for a housing stipend to find your accommodation. 

Unsure of how to find one? Keep reading for recommendations on making the ideal choice. 

Criteria for Selecting a Travel Nursing Agency

Endeavor to consider the following before choosing your travel nursing agency:


Is your travel nursing staffing agency a well-known company? Is it certified by the Joint Commission? Such agencies adhere to high standards by adopting standardized performance measures to ensure that travel nurses have a high acceptance rate, minimal turnover, and excellent records in other key performance indicators.

Living Arrangement

Will you have free furnished housing? Are you receiving a housing stipend to find accommodation on your own? What about meals and travel? Any staffing agency that can provide free furnished housing should be near the top of our list.


Many hospitals and health care clinics offer signing or end-of-assignment bonuses. Does the agency have access to an extensive network of participating hospitals willing to provide these bonuses?


Ensure that your travel staffing agency provides health, dental, vision, and life insurance policies that are effective immediately upon hire. You are also free to purchase your health insurance policy.

What Travel Nurse Staffing Agencies Do you Recommend?

We highly recommend the following travel nurse staffing agencies:

Aya Healthcare

Aya has an excellent reputation due to its sick pay policy, with one hour paid for every 30 hours worked. All sick days are redeemable starting from the 91st day on the job. Depending on the network, housing can be arranged through a tax-free stipend or directly with the company.

Other highlights include 50-state contractability, a 401(k) company match, and the Joint Commission’s Golden Seal of Approval, a testament to its excellent work with travel nurses nationwide.

Travel Nurse Across America (TNAA)

Little Rock-based Travel Nurse Across America offers excellent all-around benefits. The agency’s biggest claim to fame is its RN to BSN tuition reimbursement program, allowing enrollees to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 12 months. Some specialty exams/recertifications are also covered.

FlexCare Medical Staffing

FlexCare Medical Staffing is one of the industry’s more respected travel nursing staffing agencies, winning over 50 industry awards and praise from and the Highway Hypodermics list.

Triage Staffing

Contracting in all 50 states, Obama-based Triage Staffing is one of the country’s largest travel nurse staffing agencies. Critically acclaimed by popular publications such as Inc Magazine with a strong Glassdoor rating, the agency advocates for excellent pay and benefits on its roster’s behalf. The most impressive ones are a 401(k) with company match, weekly direct deposit, Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance, and a dedicated 24/7 support team.

Axis Medical Staffing

Seattle-based Axis Medical Staff offers expansive coverage, 24/7 support, and company-matched 401(k) plans. However, note the agency doesn’t include paid sick leave in your benefits.

That aside, Axis Medical boasts arguably the best resources for travel nurses, including an Ask an Axis Travel Nurse page.

Bottom Line

Travel nursing is beneficial to both nurses and society. The former can enjoy excellent pay, exclusive rewards, and an adventure-filled career, while the latter can access uninterrupted healthcare.

Are you interested in such a career? It takes nothing, save for a multi-state license. So, buckle up, earn that degree and find the ideal staffing agency for your preferences. Rest assured, tons of opportunities await an expert travel nurse!

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