Staff Staff
February 1, 2017 - 3 min read

Top 5 Locations for Travel Nurses to Make Big Bucks

For some, the greatest attraction of travel nursing is the adventure of visiting new places, making new friends, and enjoying unique experiences; for others, it’s the high salary that makes it worthwhile. One thing is for sure, traveling can be expensive, but doing so as a travel nurse can help you rake in some seriously big bucks.

Many would argue that high pay is just reflective of a high cost of living; however, a substantial contributor to this is the high cost of housing. In this regard, travel nurses are in luck because most travel nursing agencies will pay for housing or include a stipend commensurate with local housing costs.

Here’s a list of states with the five highest salaries for nurses, along with highlights and cost of living in each state.

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Average wage (RNs): $101,260/yr | $48.68/hr

The Golden State boasts some of the best weather in the country, along with the highest salaries for nurses. The hourly rate for RNs in California averages $48.68.1 Meanwhile, the demand for nurses is higher than most states because California law requires specific nurse-to-patient ratios.

California is ranked as the third most expensive state to live in.2 And while it has a very high cost of living, housing costs are the main factor, eating up an average 33% of a resident’s income.3 Since your travel nursing agency pays for your accommodations, this affords you a significant boost in spending power.

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Median wage (RNs): $90,130/yr | $43.33/hr

The cost of living in Hawaii is the highest in the nation.2 Despite this, everyone still wants to live here, and can you blame them? With its beautiful beaches, tropical climate, and rich local culture, Hawaii is a travel nurse’s dream. Like California, a relatively disproportionate amount of Hawaiians’ income is spent on housing, putting travel nurses in a strong financial position.3

Median wage (RNs): $88,510/yr | $42.55/hr

The majestic scenery and pristine waters of Alaska will have you reveling in all its natural beauty as you cash in on the high demand for qualified nurses. Paying an average of $42.55 per hour,1 Alaska is a veritable gold mine. Additionally, housing costs are 38% above the national average,3 making your housing allowance even more valuable.


Median wage (RNs): $83,800/yr | $40.29/hr

One of the earliest proponents of the organic, sustainable, and “slow food” movements, Oregon has established itself as a mecca for quirky, progressive creatives, offering some of the highest wages for RNs with an average of $40.29 per hour.1 Though the housing costs are relatively high,2 Oregon beats out every other state on this list for food and other living expenses.3 In fact, transportation costs in Oregon fall below the national average and gas stations are mandated to pump your gas for you4.


Median wage (RNs): $90,130/yr | $43.33/hr

The New England state that is home to so many significant moments in U.S. history is also one of the few states whose law mandates a specific nurse to patient ratio in hospital ICUs. With the hourly wage for nurses paying an average of $43.331, you’ll be making history of your own as you explore the Boston Harbor, visit Plymouth Rock, enjoy music at world-famous Tanglewood, visit Emily Dickinson’s home, or walk along the roads of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.

Though it ranks as the 4th most costly state to live,2 housing costs can be as high as 50%5 of a normal resident’s income; luckily, you won’t be just a “normal” resident.

There are many benefits of being a travel nurse, and the earning potential in these five states could make those benefits even better. Best of luck exploring your options in these locations that will give you more bang for your nursing buck!

Explore new frontiers. Find out where travel nursing can take you.

1. “Occupational Employment and Wages for Registered Nurses.” US Bureau of Labor Statistics. May 2015. Web. Accessed Jan 2017.
2. “Cost of Living Data Series.” Missouri Economic Research and Information Center. Oct 2016. Web. Accessed Jan 2017.
3. “What percentage of Household Income is Spent on Rent in Each State?”. Overflow Data. Overflow.Solutions. Oct 2016. Web. Accessed Jan 2017.
4. “Why can’t Oregonians pump their own gas? Let us count the reasons.” The Oregonian. Blog.Oregon.Live. Feb 2012. Web. Accessed Jan 2017.
5. “Housing puts heavy burden on many in Greater Boston.” The Boston Globe. May 2015. Web. Accessed Jan 2017.

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