12 Tips to Make $100K as a Travel Nurse
By now, you have probably heard that travel nurses can earn more money than staff nurses, but you may have not been prepared for just how high your earnings can reach. Although the average reported wage for a travel nurse is around the $88K range, that number can vary widely based on factors like where you work, what your specialty is, and staffing numbers.
The reason travel nurses can expect to make more than staff nurses is because their overall compensation package works differently — in addition to their base wage, travel nurses can also receive extra compensation that can include sign-on and referral bonuses as well as housing, expense, and meal stipends. For some travel nurses, it can even be possible to make six figures — or over $100K — as a travel nurse. Here are some tips on how to make that happen.
12 Tips to Make $100K as a Travel Nurse
1. Be flexible
The reason hospitals and medical facilities work with staffing agencies is that they work to fill in the gaps where nurses are needed; that means that there is a wide range of available nursing positions. If you’re willing to be flexible in where you are willing to work, you could have more opportunity for higher pay and compensation — especially if your recruiter learns that he or she can call you in a pinch. Supply and demand is the name of the game here, and the more demand for an area that is needed, the more income potential you have.
Being flexible might look like taking that odd-time shift, working in a less-popular area, or traveling to a location that is less than ideal (say goodbye to Hawaii in the winter, folks). See also: holiday pay. Usually, you’ll make more money if you sign up for holiday shifts.
2. Get certified in a speciality field
Nurses who hold a certification in a hard-to-fill specialty field have the ability to command a higher wage and/or ask for additional compensation. Travel nursing means filling in where there is a need, and if you’re a nurse who can fill a hard-to-find need, you’re in high demand and may be able to negotiate for a higher base wage or compensation packages.
Speciality areas such as the Cardiac Cath Lab, Labor & Delivery, Neonatal ICU, ICU, Emergency Room, Telemetry, and Operating Room are all usually hard to fill and may earn you additional compensation. It’s also a good idea to ask your staffing agency what certifications they find are in high demand, as those may vary from location to location.
3. Find your own housing
If you can, avoid using company housing and instead elect to take the set housing stipend to find your own living arrangement. If you are able to find your own housing situation that is cheaper than the stipend, then those excess funds go in your pocket and your overall compensation. You could also find a roommate from your agency, for example, or use Airbnb for a local place to stay. Just be sure you’re fully aware of the rules regarding housing stipends, such as turning in receipts or bills.
Read more: Housing for Traveling Nurses
4. Work with the best agencies
Established staffing agencies may be able to command better packages for travel nurses, or help you match with an area that can boost your wage. Although it’s a good idea to shop around for agencies to find the best fit for you, in many cases, it’s a good idea to start with an established agency for the best rates and compensation packages.
Read more: Travel Nursing Companies & Agencies
5. Work with multiple agencies
Unless you sign an exclusive contract, you are not required to stick to just one nurse staffing agency. You could have relationships with multiple agencies to help you find the jobs that are the best fit for your goals — and you may be able to use an offer from one agency to help you negotiate compensation for another job, if needed.
Pro tip: You should always carefully inspect your entire contract and consider having an attorney review it before signing it, so you understand what you’re signing.
6. Maintain multiple state licenses
You can make yourself more valuable to staffing agencies by maintaining nursing licenses in multiple states. Once you choose an agency, be sure to speak with your recruiter for advice on what states would be the most helpful to become licensed in, so that you are available for more assignments. And if you do hold multiple licenses and are willing to travel to those states, be sure to let your recruiter know as well, so he or she can place you quickly.
Read more: Current Nursing Compact States 2019
7. Sign-up for rapid response staffing
If you’re willing to be called in for immediate staffing needs, you may be able to earn additional money with “on-call” or short-staffing response time compensation. For instance, some hospitals may pay time and a half or even double time for nurses willing to come in at short notice. Strike situations — while not exactly the most popular choice to win you friends — usually also carry additional compensation for nurses willing to work.
8. Communicate with your recruiter
If you want to work more hours, find a higher-paying placement or gain experience that could open up doors for additional compensation, work with your recruiter to reach your goals. For example, if you know that OR experience could help you land a lucrative position in the future, but you haven’t been able to get your foot in the door, communicate with your recruiter that you’d really like some OR experience. The right recruiter can help you, but if he or she is not aware of what you’re working towards, they can’t help.
9. Ask for bonuses
Want a bonus for signing on with a new agency or be willing to work that shift that no one else will take? Just ask! Your nursing staffing agency may be able to work in a bonus to your compensation package, or even negotiate with the hospital or clinic for additional compensation as necessary. You could also ask for bonuses that could help you advance your education, so that you could become even more desirable for future recruitment opportunities.
10. Refer your friends
Referrals can really add up, so if you know a lot of nurses, are active on social media or are willing to put in the work to recruit for your agency, you can earn a significant amount of money thanks to referral bonuses. Just be sure to check with your agency on the rules and if there is a cap on how much you can earn — if there is, you may want to work on referring to different agencies to collect referrals with each one.
11. Stay on top of your taxes
To help ensure that you are able to keep as much of your income as possible and don’t owe more money come tax time, be sure to keep on top of the tax rules of travel nursing and file any paperwork you may need. It’s a good idea to consult with an accountant who works with travel nurses to make sure you are keeping proper records and filing on time to avoid fees and fines.
Read more: Comprehensive Guide to Travel Nurse Taxes
12. Remember your “why”
Sure, making $100k sounds like a great goal and making that much money can have real advantages, but it’s also probably going to require a significant amount of work and sacrifice on your end.
So as you work towards your goal, be crystal-clear on why you are aiming for that six-figure mark. Are you trying to pay down your student debt? Saving for a down payment on a house? Building up your nest egg so you can start your family? Stocking away cash to travel the world (not while working, obv)?
On the shifts that will test your patience, spirit and stamina, it can be helpful to remember you goal — and just why you are working so hard on that shift that no one else wanted.