Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie
January 9, 2023 - 5 min read

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make In A Year? | Salary 2023

Travel nursing has been all the rage for the last few years. Travel nursing positions come with plenty of perks, such as high travel nurse salaries, incentives like sign-on bonuses, and the opportunity to work in glamorous places like Hawaii and Florida.

But, do travel nurses really make more money? The answer is yes…usually. However, the exact amount of money you can make as a travel nurse really depends on a variety of different factors.

Below is a breakdown of a travel nurse’s salary and why travel nurses tend to get paid more than nurses in traditional roles.

Find available, high-paying travel nurse opportunities.

Do Travel Nurses Make More Money?

In general, travel nurses have the opportunity to make more money than staff nurses for two main reasons:

1. High need = higher pay

Travel nurse staffing agencies work specifically with hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities that have a high demand for nurses, which means they are willing to pay more to reach adequate staffing levels or to cover a known leave of absence.

2. Additional monetary incentives.

Unlike regular staff nurses, travel nurses are paid a “total pay package” that includes an hourly base wage pay plus additional monetary incentives, like the following:

  • Sign-on or referral bonuses
  • Travel reimbursements
  • Stipends for housing
  • Food, mileage, or job-related expenses

Because these extra stipends are classified as reimbursements and not income, they’re non-taxable, so a travel nurse can bring home a higher total pay when compared to a staff nurse, who pays taxes on all of the income they bring home.

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

The average salary for travel nurses in 2023 was $126,384, according to Indeed.com. That is significantly higher than the average salary for staff nurses of $93,042 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The exact salary you can expect to make as a travel nurse will vary widely based on where you choose to work, the type of nursing position it is, and the length of the contract.

For example, you may make more in a month as a travel nurse compared to a staff nurse, but if you only work one- or two-month-long assignments, your annual pay will be lower. However, if you take several assignments in a 12-month period, then you could make significantly more in one year than you could as a staff nurse.

Your total travel nursing pay package will look different than that of a staff nurse because it’s made up of your “base wage” pay — the hourly rate you earn for your nursing duties — and additional stipends, which are classified as non-taxable reimbursements and not considered income.
As an example, a standard total travel nurse pay package could look something like this:

Taxable hourly base wage* $3,200
Monthly housing stipend $1,200
Monthly meals stipend $800
Monthly mileage stipend $500
Monthly continuing education stipend $500
Sign-on bonus $2,000
Total monthly pay $8,200

*Assumes $20 per hour at 40 hours per week, minus taxes

You should consult your own certified financial planner if you have concerns before you start travel nursing. It may help you evaluate if a travel nurse pay package is right for you based on your overall financial goals.

Do Travel Nurses Get Benefits?

Some travel nurse staffing agencies also offer travel nurses additional benefits, such as retirement options and health, dental, vision, and life insurance. Keep in mind, retirement options that include a 401(k) may not be the most effective option if your taxable income is already low. It may make more sense to invest in a Roth IRA or other retirement account. But again, consult with your tax professional before making any major decisions.

Most travel nursing companies also require that you work a certain number of months before the 401(k) becomes available for travelers.

Why? One of the main benefits of a 401(k) is that it allows you to contribute your income before it’s taxed, but a large portion of most travel nurses’ total pay packages is non-taxable. Contributing to a 401(k) can decrease a travel nurse’s overall taxable income considerably and may lead to issues down the road — if they need to qualify for a home loan, for example.

Highest Paying Locations for Registered Nurses

Where you choose to work as a travel nurse also plays a large role in how much you will make. Certain cities and states offer higher pay because they have such a high demand for nurses, while other areas pay more based on the time of year.

For example, if you’re willing to travel to Alaska in the winter, you have the opportunity to make more money than if you worked in Hawaii in the winter months. Travel nurses who are willing to relocate to “less popular” areas throughout the year stand to increase the amount of overall pay they can make over the course of the entire year.

You could also seek out assignments in the highest-paying states and cities for travel nurses. For example, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10 highest-paying cities for RNs (not specifically travel nurses) currently are:

City Annual Salary Weekly Pay 
San Jose, CA $124,486 $2,393
Jackson, WY $124,160 $2,387
Oakland, CA $123,231 $2,369
Vallejo, CA $120,898 $2,324
Hayward, CA $120,579 $2,318
Seattle, WA $120,473 $2,316
Truckee, CA $135,490 $2,312
Santa Barbara, CA $119,641 $2,300
Barnstable Town, MA $119,554 $2,299
Sunnyvale, CA $119,190 $2,292

Source: ZipRecruiter

The Top Highest Paying States for RNs in 2023 – based on all specialties

  1. California
  2. Hawaii
  3. Oregon
  4. District of Columbia
  5. Alaska

Source: BLS

Keep in mind that the Bureau of Labor Statistics data lists average salaries for RNs, so the potential for travel nurses specifically in those areas is even higher. However, you also have to consider the cost of living in those areas and if the stipends you’ll receive for housing, food, and other expenses will adequately cover those costs.

Read more: Best Cities for Travel Nurses

A Note on Nursing Specialties

Working a travel nursing assignment in a high-paying state or city is one way to increase your take-home salary. However, you can also increase your pay as a travel nurse by working in an in-demand specialty.

The average travel nurse’s salary does vary based on specialty.
For example, travel nurses who work in the following in-demand specialties have the opportunity to make more pay (or negotiate for higher pay). Did you hear that? You can negotiate!

Some of those specialties include:

If you have experience in an in-demand area, you should highlight that on your travel nursing application, as well as bring it to the attention of the travel nurse recruiter to maximize your pay.

Additionally, you may be able to make even more money if you seek out specialty certification in your area on your own prior to signing with a travel nursing agency.

Having a nurse who is “ready to go” in a specialty area may be more lucrative to a staffing agency than a nurse who is simply willing to be trained, but not yet certified.

Travel Nursing Salary: Beyond a Paycheck

Travel nursing can be a profitable way to boost your savings and overall take-home pay. But the benefits don’t stop with just your paycheck. Travel nursing has so many other perks:

  • Expand your resume
  • Gain valuable hands-on nursing experience
  • Learn skills on the job
  • Increase your confidence
  • Find hospitals or coworkers you may want to work with as a staff nurse in the future
  • And ultimately, advance your career

As a travel nurse, you’ll have the opportunity to work in fields you may not have access to close to home or receive additional training to further your nursing skills as well. Also, because travel nursing is flexible and can accommodate both short and long-term positions, many nurses can try temporary nursing assignments whether they’re single, partnered, married, child-free, or have a family.

And, of course, travel nursing is a great way to experience other parts of the country to live in, see, and explore.

RNs can earn up to $2,300 per week as travel nurses. Speak to a recruiter today!

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