Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
December 13, 2021 - 8 min read

Travel Nursing in New York | Top Paying Specialties & Cities 2021

Travel nursing is an exciting opportunity to see parts of the United States while making some serious money. Prior to COVID, New York was one of the most sought-after states for travel nursing. However, working conditions throughout COVID changed the perception of nursing in New York, especially New York City.

Travel nursing in New York is still one of the most sought after, not because of the ideal working conditions, but rather for the extremely high pay and countless travel nurse opportunities.

Major cities such as New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester attract nurses who want to enjoy the nightlife in the city or a slower pace of life in the suburbs. This guide will help you learn more about travel nursing in New York and why it might be a great fit for you!

Speak with a recruiter about available travel nursing assignments in New York!

COVID & travel nurses in New York

As of December 3, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported a minimum of 8,853 new cases per day in New York, excluding NYC. New York City on the other hand reported 2,050 new cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 2,734,874 positive COVID cases in New York and 57,491 deaths. The largest number of reported cases is in Kings County with approximately 344,326 positive COVID cases and 10,972 deaths. Reports indicate that 68.69% or 13,361,820 people are fully vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

New York, especially New York City, was the epicenter of COVID at the start of the pandemic. The numbers only continued to surge as the delta variant spread across the state. New York relied heavily on travel nurses, more specifically crisis nurses, throughout the initial wave of COVID.

More than ever, New York is relying on travel nurses to fill the staffing shortage and help relieve overwhelmed hospitals.

More than ever, New York is relying on travel nurses to fill the staffing shortage and help relieve overwhelmed hospitals. Furthermore, the Omicron variant has now been detected in New York, which could continue to strain hospitals and healthcare systems.

By 2030 there is a projected shortage of more than 39,000 registered nurses (RN) in New York, according to a report put out by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) in August 2020.

“As healthcare systems struggle to meet new recruitment and retention challenges, they are also struggling to meet the high patient volume we are seeing from our communities. Many healthcare systems have been forced to rely on external sources such as agencies to fill the gaps caused by staffing shortages. This places a significant strain on today’s healthcare system,” said a St. Peter’s Health Partners spokesperson.

How much do travel nurses make in New York?

According to ZipRecruiter, the top locations for travel nurses are New York City, Staten Island, Manhattan, and Poughkeepsie. It’s important to remember that these hourly wages have been affected by the crisis pay that was readily available throughout the initial wave of the pandemic.

New York City

  • Hourly Wage: $51.20/hour
  • Weekly Wage: $2,048/week
  • Monthly Wage: $8,875/month

Staten Island

  • Hourly Wage: $53.46/hour
  • Weekly Wage: $2,138/week
  • Monthly Wage: $9,266/month


  • Hourly Wage: $52.38/hour
  • Weekly Wage: $2,095/week
  • Monthly Wage: $9,079/month


  • Hourly Wage: $52.22/hour
  • Weekly Wage: $2,089/week
  • Monthly Wage: $9,051/month

Highest paying nursing specialties in New York

The highest-paid travel nursing specialties depend on a variety of factors including location, demand, and urgency of need. Right now, the demand for travel nurses in New York remains extremely high due to COVID and crisis contracts. As a result, the wages that are being offered are steadily increasing. Unfortunately, this is not consistent across all disciplines of nursing.

It’s important to remember why the rates for travel nurses are being offered. A large number of healthcare workers left the bedside during the pandemic and continue to do so. Furthermore, due to repeated exposure at the start of the pandemic and lack of proper personal protection equipment (PPE) a large number of nurses lost their lives to COVID. This further increases the need for travel nurses in New York.

Historically speaking, the top paying travel nurse specialties are:

  1. Labor and Delivery
  2. Operating Room
  3. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  4. Post-anesthesia Care Unit
  5. Intensive Care Unit

With COVID, the top paying travel nurse jobs have changed and are based on location more so than position.

According to ZipRecruiter, the following cities have these top-paying specialties:

New York City

  • ICU Travel Nurse: $67.51/hour
  • Operating Room Travel Nurse: $64.86/hour
  • Emergency Room Travel Nurse: $63.32/hour
  • Oncology Travel Nurse: $59.17/hour


  • ICU Travel Nurse: $59.70/hour
  • Operating Room Travel Nurse: $57.21/hour

Staten Island

  • Intensive Care Unit Travel Nurse: $59.25/hour
  • Critical Care Travel Nurse: $56.30/hour


  • ICU Travel Nurse: $52.90/hour
  • Medical-Surgical Travel Nurse: $49.87/hour

Looking for travel nurse assignments in New York? Speak with a recruiter today!

Top 5 hospitals in New York

With more than 20.2 million residents in 2020, almost half of the state’s population lives in New York City. Interestingly, New York City has more people than 40 of the 50 U.S. states.

According to U.S. World News and Report, 210 hospitals were evaluated in New York. The top five hospitals in New York as of 2020 were:

New York-Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia and Cornell

  • Location: New York
  • Nationally Ranked: 14 Adult Specialties and 8 Children’s Specialties
  • High Performing: 1 Adult Specialty & 14 Procedures/Conditions

NYU Langone Hospitals

  • Location: New York
  • Nationally Ranked: 14 Adult Specialties
  • High Performing: 15 Procedures/Conditions

Mount Sinai Hospital

  • Location: New York
  • Nationally Ranked: 11 Adult Specialties and 4 Children’s Specialties
  • High Performing: 13 Procedures/Conditions

Lenox Hill Hospital

  • Location: New York
  • Nationally Ranked: 7 Adult Specialties
  • High Performing: 4 Adult Specialties & 13 Procedures/Conditions

North Shore University Hospital

  • Location: Manhasset
  • Nationally Ranked: 8 Adult Specialties
  • High Performing: 1 Adult Specialty & 14 Procedures/Conditions

Cost of living for travel nurses in New York

As the national cost of living continues to rise, New York has continued to see a dramatic increase in the cost of living. In fact, the cost of living in New York has always been one of the highest in the country. Cost of living is defined as the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare.

The cost of living is always higher in larger cities than smaller towns so housing will cost significantly more in New York City.

According to Bestplaces.net, the overall cost of living in New York rates 120.5. The number is well above 100 which means New York is significantly more than the U.S. average. The median house cost is $373,000 as compared to the median home cost in the U.S. as a whole of only $291,700. Housing and transportation continually rank significantly higher than other parts of the country.

Payscale.com reports on the cost of living in major New York cities including the median home price, median rent, monthly energy bill. With the very high cost of living, especially in New York City for housing, the travel nurse contracts must accommodate the rising costs.

New York City

  • Compared to National Average: 129% higher
  • Median Home Price: $1,628,124
  • Median Rent: $5,100 / month
  • Median Energy Bill: $210.08 / month


  • Compared to National Average: 4% lower
  • Median Home Price: $353,246
  • Median Rent: $1,107/ month
  • Median Energy Bill: $159.11 / month


  • Compared to National Average: 1% higher
  • Median Home Price: $323,751
  • Median Rent: $1,014 / month
  • Median Energy Bill: $169.00 / month


  • Compared to National Average: 9% higher
  • Median Home Price: $394,886
  • Median Rent: $1,237 / month
  • Median Energy Bill: $150.89 / month

A great resource to evaluate how far a salary will stretch in a given city is CNN’s Cost of Living Calculator.

Pros & cons of travel nursing in New York

With any career, there are pros and cons to the job. Travel nursing is no different.

It’s important to take into consideration your own personal circumstances, family obligations, and reasons for wanting to be a travel nurse. Reasons that some nurses might see as a con may in fact be a positive for you.


  1. Increased earning potential: Travel nurses have the ability to earn significantly more money than staff nurses. Furthermore, they can make more due to reimbursements and incentives. Most travel nurses receive free housing or have a 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 experience. It also is great for nurses who are not sure where they ultimately want to settle down.
  3. Flexibility: You have the ability to take a contract when you want to and where you want to. If you really want to travel to Hawaii, you have the ability to find a contract that fits your needs.
  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 to earn an advanced degree, making connections with different hospitals, providers, and 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 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.


  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 in 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 who no one wants to deal with.
  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. This again will make you the new person which can affect how others perceive you and 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 you want or with the amenities you desire. Contracts will offer a housing stipend instead, which most travel nurses take, but then 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.

Why travel nurse in New York?

New York is an interesting state because of the overwhelming population disparity between New York City versus the rest of the state. This leads to not only a nursing shortage in the most populous city in the country but also a lack of skilled nursing in smaller communities.

New York boasts the Catskills mountains which offer hiking, bird watching, wine tasting, and fall leaf-peeping. The Finger Lakes region has some of the best vineyards in the country and produce award-winning Riesling. New York City has Broadway, Michelin-starred restaurants, and vibrant nightlife.

With an ongoing high demand for travel nurses of all specialties and very competitive wages, New York is a great fit for anyone interested in becoming a travel nurse. Whether it is your first contract or your fifteenth, New York has something to offer anyone willing to explore!

Speak with a recruiter about available travel nursing assignments in New York!

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