Ready to start an exciting career working in some of the most prestigious hospitals and medical centers across the country? Then fantastic maybe you should consider becoming a travel nurse.

How to Become a Travel Nurse Guide

Quick Summary

Travel nurses are registered nurses who travel around the country that are contracted to work in a set location for a period. Travel nurses can take assignments that range from eight to 26 weeks within their specialty area of choice.

Travel nurses are registered nurses that work with travel staffing firms to help fill nursing staff shortages within a hospital. When nurses take maternity leave or annual vacations or just need time away to attend, event hospitals need experienced nurses to take their permanent employees’ place temporally. They do this by working with travel nurse staffing companies to help fill this gap.

Recommended level of education for this career: Bachelor of Science (BSN)

License Needed: Active and current Registered Nursing (RN) licensure

Optional Certification: No one particular certification is offered for travel nurses. However, it is best to become certified within your nursing specialty of choice. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers over 12 certifications for registered nurses wishing to become certified.

How much do Travel nurses make?  The Median annual salary for travel nurses according to is $61,483 or $32.00 an hour.


Table of Contents

What does a Travel Nurse do?

Travel nursing offers endless career possibilities allowing nurses to go to new locations and gain new experiences. Becoming a travel nurse provides freedom and flexibility. Some travel nurses work locally or even take positions close to home. One of the main advantages of becoming a travel nurse is the ability to pick where and when you would like to work. This in return offers many registered nurses autonomy with more control over their careers.

Travel nurses who work with travel nursing staff firms enjoy higher pay and some staffing firms offer lavish benefits and sometimes pay for continuing education classes.

Typically, the travel nurse housing and travel costs are covered by the hospital to the staffing firm. There are two kinds of housing options. The first one is known as agency placed house. This option creates less stress for the traveling nurse. The firm works with housing agencies to provide short-term leases within or close to the location of your assignment.

The second option is called stipend pay. Stipend pay is a rental budget you receive to pay for your short-term housing. This option will allow you to find your temporary housing.

Deciding to become a travel nurse you will need to decide on which specialty area you enjoy best. A travel nurse could work in several specialty areas. Some of the more popular specialty areas include critical care; telemetry and Intensive care unit (ICU) travel nurses or even in labor and delivery.

  • Some benefits of becoming a travel nurse include:
  • Create a marketable professional career profile
  • Learn and build new skills
  • Decide when and how much you would like to work
  • Increased salary within some locations
  • Meet new people and visit new places

Once you complete your nursing education and obtain your registered nursing licensure. You will need to select a staffing agency to work with. Some travel nursing agencies offer comprehensive health insurance as well as other benefits. Other companies depending on size and demand may be so eager to hire you they may even offer you a sign-on bonus.

These bonuses may range from $500 to as high as $5,000. The rewards and many benefits a nursing travel agency will offer will vary so it is best to call around and find the one best suited for your needs.


What education will I need to become a travel nurse?

All traveling nurses will need to have passed their NCLEX-RN examination and hold an active registered nursing license. To be a traveling nurse you will need to have a nursing license within the state in which you decide to practice.

The Nursing Licensure Compact has joined forces with 22 states that are now allowing traveling nurses nursing licensure to be recognized and accepted by other NLC states. This eliminates the need to have to reapply for your nursing licensure and be able to practice as a traveling nurse in participating states.

To be qualified to take the NCLEX-RN exam you will need to either hold a hospital nursing diploma or have obtained your Associate’s Degree in Nursing or have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited nursing school.

Career Sphere reports that more than half of traveling nurses hold a Bachelors’ Degree of Science in Nursing. Bachelor’s degree, although not required, offers you a more professional and competitive edge. Bachelor’s degrees often take about four years to complete.



What certifications are available for travel nurses?

There is no one special certification to become a traveling nurse. Traveling nurses become certified within their chosen area of specialty. Such as critical care certification or even geriatric certifications.

There are several certifications to choose from. Although most require you have working experience as a registered nurse in the area, you wish to be qualified to become certified.

Career Outlook

The future for traveling nurses appears bright. This is in part due to hospitals having mandated staffing ratios. Additionally over 80% of hospitals contract with traveling nursing firms to help provide a cost-effective way to meet patient care demands and to retain nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the nursing field is projected to increase faster than average by 2020.

Read also – How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN) Guide

Check out our other Nursing School Guides.