Sophia Khawly
Sophia Khawly
July 7, 2021 - 3 min read

The Difference Between a Travel NP and a Travel RN

Although they might sound interchangeable, travel NPs and travel RNs are quite different. Here’s a look at what differentiates these roles — a guide to help you figure out which path is right for you.

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Travel Nurse Practitioner vs Travel RN


As a traveling registered nurse, you only need to obtain one license in each state. If you are part of a compact state, then the licensing process can be pretty quick and easy.

As a traveling nurse practitioner, you often have to obtain two to three licenses per state. You need the RN license, the ARNP one, and sometimes a prescribing license to order medications. Since more licenses as an NP are needed, the licensing process can take much longer.

As a travel NP, you will also have to make sure your DEA certificate is changed to each state you work in or you will not be able to prescribe controlled substances.

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Scope of Practice

Both the RN and NP scope of practice varies by state. As an RN, you are carrying out orders given by an MD, NP, or PA. As an NP, some states allow full practice authority. This means an NP can work independently. Other states with stricter laws may require an NP to have a practice agreement with a physician, in which supervision is needed. The state board of nursing will need a copy of this practice agreement to keep on file.

Clinical Settings

Travel RNs typically work in acute care. They work in hospitals in various floors such as the ICU, ER, medical-surgical unit, PACU, OR etc. I do know some RNs that work in hospitals as case managers as well.

Travel NPs work in a more variety of clinical settings. We can work in schools, doctor offices, community health centers, hospitals, military bases, home health, occupational health, retail clinics, veteran’s clinics, Indian health centers, insurance sponsored clinics, and more.

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Both travel RNs and NPs are in high demand. There are always multiple jobs to choose from. Both are unlikely to go long periods of time without finding an available position, particularly if you work with a staffing agency.

Nurse practitioners have more competition than registered nurses for travel positions, since sites may choose to hire a locum tenens Physician or Physician Assistant instead. A staffing agency can provide job alerts as new positions become available.


Travel RNs are paid a weekly stipend which includes hourly pay with tax savings, incidentals, meal and housing allowances. Travel RNs are paid as a W-2 employee.

Travel NPs are paid an hourly rate and may be given an extra daily per diem for driving their own cars. However, housing will be paid directly to the landlord/hotel. Travel NPs can be paid as a W-2 employee or as a 1099 sole proprietor.

Most travel NPs do not get direct meal stipends, but can easily deduct $250 worth of meal costs per week in their taxes.

W-2 positions offer benefits such as health insurance or a 401k. 1099 positions do not take out taxes and do not offer benefits. However, they usually pay more and since you are considered self-employed, you are eligible for more tax deductions than a W-2 employee.

Travel Nurse Practitioner Salaries

As with travel RNs, the salary ranges for travel nurse practitioners vary by state.

The national average for travel nurse pay is higher for travelers than for staff nurses. Your average annual salary will be impacted by the years of experience you have as a nurse.

In 2019, the five states with the highest paying travel nursing jobs for nurse practitioners were:

  1. California: $133,780
  2. Alaska: $122,800
  3. Massachusetts: $122,740
  4. New Jersey: $122,100
  5. New York: $120,970

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Assignment Length

The majority of travel RN assignments are 13 weeks long. Travel NP assignments can vary from 1 day to 1 year, although most are about 3 months long.

Both travel RNs and travel NPs usually have the option to extend their assignment at the end of those 3 months.

Travel NP vs Travel RN: Similarities

Both travel RNs and NPs are able to travel around the country for free. Housing and travel are paid for. Licensing fees are paid for or reimbursed. The average assignments are often about 3 months in length. Both travel RNs and NPs are in high demand. The pay is more as a traveler than as a permanent employee. Working with an agency and recruiter is necessary as a traveler. Both have tax advantages. Both opportunities will make you a stronger healthcare professional. And both give you the opportunity for the adventure of a lifetime.

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