Registered Nurses (RNs) are consistently listed among professions with the best job prospects, and this year is no different. As reported in Fortune.com, the website Indeed lists RNs as the most in-demand job for 2015. That being said, opportunities, salary, and specialty do matter when it comes to developing or advancing a healthy nursing career. One of the options gaining ground among RNs is to take your practice as an RN on the road and become a travel nurse. This allows you to work in the cities that offer top-notch opportunities in nursing, competitive salaries, not to mention the chance to see the country before deciding where you’d like to put down roots.
If you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse, the first thing you need to do is some research to explore the top cities for travel nursing. From there, you can find the one that is the best fit for your interests and lifestyle. Once you make your decision, you’ll need to become licensed in that state in order to qualify for work.
No matter where you decide to hang your scrubs, as a travel nurse you will be well paid, and often will have your housing and travel costs covered as part of your compensation. Of course, specific hospitals and health care facilities vary when it comes to salary, benefits, and additional perks, but on average, travel nurses can expect to make approximately $75,000 per year. Keep in mind, however, that getting hired as a travel nurse is typically a short-term commitment, at least to start. Assignments can range from 8 to 20+ weeks, but typically, they are around 13 weeks. That being said, if you do a good jobl in your assignments, travel nursing agencies will work hard to keep placing you in desirable positions.
When considering which cities are best for your travel nursing career, there’s a lot more to it than just looking at the dollar amount on your paycheck. You also need to think about the additional benefits being offered, the city’s cost of living, and the number of job openings available. For example, some travel nurse agencies will pay your moving expenses as well as award a sign-on bonus, along with other perks like retirement plans, and/or continuing education opportunities.
If you’re a travel nurse who has specializations and advanced credentials on your resume, you might consider targeting cities or hospitals that have a specific need for your skills. Oftentimes, smaller cities might have a shortage of nurses who have NICU training, for example, and look to travel nurses with specialized credentials to fill the void. The smaller cities are the ones likely to have a smaller pool of qualified nursing candidates.
Bearing all that in mind, here are some the top cities to consider for your next travel nursing job…
If you’re all about earning a top-paying salary, it’s likely that you’ll end up going west. California cities in particular boast some of the highest salaries for travel nurses in the nation, with San Jose leading the pack with an annual salary range of $73,000 to $116,000, according to salary survey data compiled by Onward Healthcare. Other California cities with the potential to earn over six figures include San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
If West Coast living is not your style, you can find top salaries in other big cities across the nation. The likes of New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston on the list of top paying cities will probably come as no surprise, since they are renowned for their top-notch medical facilities, and serve big populations of people.
Not surprising, many of the cities that are offering travel nurses the big bucks, are also the ones that have a high need for RNs. In addition to the cities listed above, you can add Dallas, Seattle, Phoenix, and Denver to the pack, based on research done by Burning Glass, which analyzed the number of travel nurse job postings by city. For instance, Dallas posted 1,689 nursing jobs for travel nurses between March 2013 and February 2014.
As mentioned previously, don’t forget that, depending on the city you choose, your cost of living can be dramatically different. So a $75,000 salary in North Dakota might go a bit further than, say, in New York. According to research by WalletHub.com, the states with the highest salaries for nurses, adjusted by annual cost of living were: Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and Michigan.
You’ll also want to consider quality of life factors, and how the city of choice matches with your personal preferences and cultural interests before booking your plane ticket. And as with any new job, it’s important to consider what the work environment will be like by researching the particular institution at which you’ll be reporting for duty.
There are lots of online rankings of top nurse-friendly hospitals that you could start with. For example, TopRNtoBSN.com chose Schneck Medical Center, in Seymour, Indiana, Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago as their top three picks, based on the quality of their nursing practices, as well as educational, training and career advancement opportunities.
Beyond such rankings, research each prospective hospital or facility onyour own, and see if you can connect with current nursing staff members in advance to get a sense of what the experience will be like.
The good news is that because travel nursing is usually temporary, if you decide that a particular city is not your style, you can always relocate for your next job. But if you do find a city that’s a good match for you, transitioning to full-time work is a possibility as well.
By Dawn Papandrea
Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more. Visit Dawn on Google+ and at her website.