Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
January 19, 2023 - 7 min read

Travel Nursing in Arizona | Top Paying Specialties & Cities 2023

Arizona is known for the Grand Canyon, vast deserts, and the Hoover Dam. The state offers endless possibilities for travel nurses. Travel nurses can find some of the best hospitals in the country in Phoenix and Tempe. Located in the American Southwest, Arizona is known for its heat and humidity which might be a deterrent for some but a great escape from the snowy winters of the Northeast and Midwest.

Bordering Mexico, travel nurses in Arizona have the opportunity to easily travel to parts of Mexico and Central America. This expands a travel nurse’s ability to experience new locations and cultures. Travel nurses yearning to see other parts of the world will see this border state as an ideal location for a nursing contract.

Looking for open travel nurse assignments? Speak with a recruiter today!

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make in Arizona?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses in Arizona earn an average annual salary of $81,600 or $39.23 per hour, which is more than the national average.

In fact, the top 90% of nurses in Arizona earn over $100,000.

Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between staff nurses and travel nurses, though the compensation for travel nurses is usually higher and directly reflective of the ongoing need for nurses. Based on the BLS, it can be assumed that travel nurses in Arizona earn a higher wage than in other parts of the country.

In fact, the top 90% of nurses in Arizona earn over $100,000.

Indeed.com reports an average base salary of $2,671 per week or $62.56 per hour with top-paying locations in Mesa, Sun City, Glendale, Tucson, and Phoenix. Here’s how they break down:

Hourly WageWeekly WageMonthly Wage
Sun City$69.82$2,981$11,535

Highest Paying Nursing Specialties in Arizona

The highest-paid travel nursing specialties depend on a variety of factors including location within the state, demand, and urgency of needs. The overall pay is based on demand, especially for specific specialties. As the demand for travel nurses increases, wages also increase.

Medical surgical nurses, long-term care nurses, and clinic nurses will see significantly lower rates than other specialties. Travel nurses that have additional certifications, skill sets, and training will earn higher wages.

Historically speaking, the top-paying travel nurse specialties are:

  1. Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  2. Labor & Delivery
  3. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  4. Operating Room (OR)
  5. Post-anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

Find open positions today for your specialty.

Top 5 Hospitals in Arizona

Arizona has 111 hospitals. Nine meet high U.S. News standards and are ranked within the state. According to the report, these six hospitals were evaluated and ranked. The top five hospitals in Arizona as of 2023 were as follows:

1. Mayo Clinic- Phoenix

  • Location: Phoenix
  • Nationally Ranked: 10 Specialties
  • High Performing: 19 Procedures/Conditions

2. Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix

  • Location: Phoenix
  • High Performing: 4 Specialties & 8 Procedures/Conditions

3. St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center

  • Location: Phoenix
  • Nationally Ranked: 2 Specialties
  • High Performing: 1 Specialty & 9 Procedures/Conditions

4. TMC Healthcare – Tucson

  • Location: Tucson
  • High Performing: 10 Procedures/Conditions

5. Abrazo Arrowhead Campus (TIE)

  • Location: Glendale
  • High Performing: 8 Procedures/Conditions

5. Banner Boswell Medical Center (TIE)

  • Location: Sun City
  • High Performing: 11 Procedures/Conditions

Cost of Living for Travel Nurses in Arizona

As the national cost of living continues to rise, Arizona is also seeing a slight overall rise in its local cost of living. However, rent costs are lower than the national average which is vital to travel nurses. In the current housing market, more travel nurses are having difficulty finding temporary housing around the country, so it’s exciting to see lower rent costs in Arizona.

Cost of living is defined as the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as food, taxes, healthcare, and housing. Despite all travel nurse companies providing a stipend for housing, at times it has shown to not be enough. Furthermore, depending on the location – hotels may not be a viable long-term solution.

According to Bestplaces.net, the overall cost of living in Arizona rates 106.4. The number is only slightly above 100, which means Arizona’s cost of living is barely higher than the U.S. average, especially compared to more expensive states. This can be reassuring to travel nurses trying to maximize their money made during a contract.

The median house cost in Arizona is $349,300 as compared to the median home cost in the U.S. of only $291,700. While most travel nurses won’t be purchasing a home, this can be an important statistic when determining housing stipends and factoring in other monthly costs.

Good news on the rental front – rent is lower in Arizona than in the rest of the country. For example, studio apartments rent for $906 in Arizona while the national average for a studio is $949. A one-bedroom apartment in Arizona will cost you roughly $991, while the one-bedroom national average is $1,048.

Payscale.com reports on the cost of living in major Arizona cities including the median home price, median rent, and monthly energy bill.

Home Price
Energy Bill
Phoenix4% higher$466,120$1,424$180.69
Flagstaff16% higher$533,448$1,630$155.78
Vail20% higher$665,165$2,032$167.89
Tempe10% higher$573,995$1,753$176.42
Tacna12% lower$210,746$643.78$186.32

Pros & Cons of Travel Nursing in Arizona

With any career, there are pros and cons. Travel nursing is no exception. It’s important to take into consideration your own personal circumstances:

  • Family obligations
  • Education career goals
  • Your specific reasons for wanting to be a travel nurse – some reasons that other nurses might see as a con may in fact be a positive for you

Pros of Travel Nursing in Arizona

1. Increased earning potential – Travel nurses have the ability to earn significantly more money than staff nurses, especially in Arizona. Furthermore, travel nurses actually take home more after taxes due to reimbursements and incentives not being considered “taxable income.” Most travel nurses receive agency-provided housing or a hefty monthly allowance to put toward housing expenses.

2. Travel! – One of the main reasons travel nurses start this adventure is to experience different cities and states they may not otherwise get to visit. It also is great for nurses who are not sure where they ultimately want to settle down. Arizona’s prime location next to Mexico allows travel nurses to experience another country and culture.

3. Flexibility – You have the ability to take a contract when you want and where you want. If you really want to travel to Arizona, you have the ability to find a contract that fits your needs. This can be ideal for travel nurses who are in school or want to be home for the holiday season. It is also easier to get a permanent staff position if there is a hospital that you eventually want to work at.

4. Networking – Most don’t consider this a huge pro of travel nursing but it is! With an increase in the number of nurses that go on for an advanced degree, making connections with different hospitals, providers, and other nurses can be very important when trying to find preceptors for graduate-level clinical rotations.

5. Avoid hospital and unit politics – Most don’t like to admit it, but bedside nursing comes with drama and politics. It can be as simple as a hierarchy based on seniority or something more serious. Being a travel nurse allows you to avoid all of this by not being fully invested in the unit but rather helping out for a very specific amount of time.

Cons of Travel Nursing in Arizona

1. Always the new person – Being new to a unit can be exciting but can also be frustrating or even lonely. Not knowing anyone on the unit can affect the type of help you will get within your work environment.

2. Not the best assignments – Some hospitals will assign travel nurses patients just like any other nurse on the unit. Others will assign them the easiest patients, the hardest patients, or the ones that no one wants to deal with. This can be frustrating, especially on an extended contract.

3. First to float to another unit – Despite being contracted to a specific unit, most travel nurses will have to float to other parts of the hospital within their skill set. Some travel nurses, depending on their specialty, will have non-float clauses in their contracts. This again will make you the new person which can affect how others perceive you as well as assist you throughout the shift.

4. Finding a place to live – All travel nurse companies offer their nurses places to live during each contract. However, it is not always in the location that they want, with the amenities they desire, or otherwise fitting their needs. Contracts will offer a housing stipend instead, which most travel nurses take, but then the work of finding appropriate housing falls on you.

5. Changing health insurance policies – With each contract may come a new health insurance policy. This will be dependent on the agency that you work with. If you switch between multiple agencies then there will most likely be a lapse in your health insurance. However, nurses can opt for private insurance and pay out of pocket. That way, when the assignment ends, you won’t lose your insurance. This can be important, especially if you are interested in taking time off between contracts and are interested in an extended travel break.

Why Travel Nursing in Arizona?

Arizona, while a landlocked state, is known for desert spas, golf oases, breathtaking rock formations, and hikes. The Colorado River runs through Arizona and offers pristine outdoor adventures for travel nurses and visitors alike.

While most major cities in Arizona have overall increased costs of living, the overall rent in Arizona is less than the national average. This can be exciting information for travel nurses especially if they are interested in finding their own housing and saving the housing stipend offered by the travel nursing agency.

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