Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
July 8, 2021 - 3 min read

Top 10 Highest Paying Travel Nursing Specialties | 2021

The highest paying travel nursing specialties depend on a variety of factors including location, demand, and urgency of needs.

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For example, OR nurses are one of the highest-paid specialties; however, an OR travel nurse in Hawaii most likely will make drastically less than an OR travel nurse in New York. Fields that are more specialized can have the potential to earn a higher salary because there are fewer nurses in those fields.

Most travel nurse experts will explain that oftentimes the specialty, while important, is not as important as location. While the following specialties are in demand and highly paid, the location and length of the contract typically do more to determine the pay rate.

Keep in mind, travel pay will also reflect the local cost of living. Therefore, it is important to take this into consideration when looking at take-home pay.

Becker’s Hospital Review completed a survey of more than 18,000 travel nurse positions in 2019 that identified the following travel nurse specialties as top paying.

Top 10 Highest Paying Travel Nursing Specialties

1. Labor and delivery (L&D) nurse: $1,996/week

Labor and delivery nurse is consistently one of the highest-paid travel nursing specialties because of the overwhelming number of births in many hospitals.

In addition, labor and delivery nurses can often work in postpartum and newborn nurseries, which increases the demand for them, and subsequently, the pay rates.

2. Operating room (OR) nurse: $1,879/week

Operating room nurses can either function as circulating or scrub nurses during procedures. Typically, travel nurses assume the role of a circulating nurse; however, it depends on the setting.

OR nurses are highly skilled and the more experience with different body systems, the more desirable you will be.

3. Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse: $1,834/week

NICU nurses work strictly with critically ill neonates and newborns. Because of the patient population and the skills required to provide medical care for them, there are positions available constantly. With fewer nurses to fill the roles, hospitals often offer premium pay to NICU nurses.

4. Post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse: $1,801/week

PACU nurses care for patients after surgical procedures. These nurses must be well versed in the care of a variety of post-operative care.

5. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse: $1,796/week

Travel nurses who have a specialty in the ICU have the responsibility to look after the patients who have experienced accidents, trauma, surgery, and organ failure. ICU nurses often have advanced training and certifications, which means increased pay packages.

Furthermore, ICU nurses can essentially work or float to most units in the hospital. This also increases demand.

Licensed and ready to travel? Find assignments in your specialty.

6. Emergency room (ER) nurse: $1,767/week

Since COVID-19, ER nurses have been in short supply. As a result, travel ER nurses can make excellent money in most locations throughout the country. Because of the fast-paced nature as well as the overall intensity of the ER, there is expected to be an ongoing shortage of ER nurses in the future.

7. Pediatrics nurse: $1,763/week

Pediatric nurses can often work in a variety of settings and healthcare facilities, which makes them valuable and the result is high pay packages.

8. Step-down unit nurse: $1,701/week

Step-down nurses specifically care for patients immediately after they leave the ICU. The patient-to-nurse ratio is lower than on a medical-surgical floor but slightly higher than an ICU. Many of these patients are still sick but they no longer require the acute care they were receiving in the ICU. Oftentimes, these nurses have similar skills and nursing certifications to an ICU nurse, which means lots of demand and an appropriately high pay rate.

9. Telemetry nurse: $1,687/week

Similar to medical surgical nurses, telemetry nurses primarily focus on patients requiring advanced cardiac monitoring. Telemetry nurses often care for more critically ill patients than medical-surgical nurses. They monitor changes in condition, record and interpret vital data to assist with patient assessment, and are responsible for educating patients on home health care.

10. Medical-surgical nurse: $1,646/week

One of the most common travel nursing specialties, medical-surgical nurses are found throughout the hospital working with a variety of patients. Medical-surgical nurses provide patient care for a variety of medical conditions and often have heavier patient assignments than in an ICU setting.

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