You want to add some excitement to your nursing career and are thinking of making the switch from staff nursing to travel nursing. 

But you have some questions. 

Are there financial benefits to travel nursing? 

Do travel nurses make more than staff nurses or per diem nurses? 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know.


how much more do travel nurses make than staff nurses


Table of Contents



What is the Difference Between a Travel Nurse and a Staff Nurse?

Putting down roots vs. satisfying your wanderlust.

Predictability vs. the great unknown. 

Obviously, travel nursing and staff nursing and some notable differences between them.

Let’s take a look at some factors that set the two professions apart.

Travel nurses:

  • Are registered nurses with a valid license and at least 2 years of nursing experience.
  • Work short-term assignments at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities.
  • Help by filling in gaps where there are nursing shortages.
  • Are employed by independent nurse staffing agencies.
  • Receive agreed-to pay packages.
  • Can work in a variety of locations, including different states or countries.
  • Can choose to change locations with each assignment. 
  • Receive stipends for housing, meals, and incidentals.
  • Have the opportunity to negotiate their pay. 
  • Can take time off between assignments, typically unpaid.
  • Are generally paid weekly.

Staff nurses:

  • Are registered nurses.
  • Are employed by a single hospital, clinic, or nursing facility.
  • Receive paid time off (PTO).
  • Are paid a salary which is based on education and experience.
  • Receive raises in pay at set time-frames. 
  • Have the ability to earn seniority. This can mean the ability to choose their schedules, working fewer weekend or day/night rotations.  
  • Are typically paid biweekly.


do travel nurses make more


Do Travel Nurses Make More Than Staff Nurses?

The short answer is, “Yes. They do”

Travel nurses make more money than staff nurses.

Let’s take a look at some reasons why this is true.

Why Do Travel Nurses Get Paid More Than Travel Nurses?

There are a number of factors that contribute to the increased pay a traveling nurse receives.


Travel nursing was birthed out of the need to help hospitals and other facilities combat nursing shortages. 

In order to attract nurses, these facilities have to offer competitive pay to get enough staff to meet the demand.

High demand equals higher pay for traveling nurses.

Crisis Management

Crisis management positions typically offer the highest pay rates in travel nursing. 

Here’s what you need to know about crisis management travel nursing assignments:

  • Since there is a sudden, urgent need for patient care, nurses accepting crisis positions are required to arrive on the job quickly, usually within two weeks or less. 
  • Assignments during a crisis situation may range anywhere from 2 to 12 months, depending on the circumstances.
  • The high demand for nursing care means the nurses responding to these positions will receive top pay. 
  • During dire emergencies or pandemic situations, normal nurse licensure requirements may be waved in states that have been declared a state of emergency.

Heads up.

When the call goes out for crisis travel nursing assignments, the need is urgent and the jobs fill quickly.

So if you think you might be interested in crisis positions, be sure to have your license, credentials, tests, and any other needed documents on-hand, ready to submit to the travel nursing agency.


Location, location, location. 

You know it matters for a real estate deal or vacation destination.

But did you know that location can also be a huge determinate when it comes to travel nursing pay?

Top paying states include:

  • California, 
  • Colorado,
  • New York,
  • Washington,
  • Alaska, 
  • Massachusetts, and
  • Texas

It’s also worth noting that in some locations you may have slightly lower pay, but also a lower cost of living. 

Choosing a lower pay/lower cost of living destination can allow you to live comfortably, but still tuck away additional income for the future.

And if a traveling nurse chooses to travel alone, their expenses are lower, therefore allowing even more take-home pay.


do travel nurses make more than staff nurses


Your Specialty

When it comes to travel nursing, some nursing specialties are in higher demand, and therefore, receive higher pay.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the highest paying specialties currently include: 

  • Labor and delivery
  • Operating room
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Post-anesthesia Care Unit
  • Intensive Care Unit
  • Emergency Room
  • Pediatrics
  • Step-down unit
  • Telemetry
  • Medical-surgical 

Your Shift

As a nurse, you are well aware that some shifts are more desirable than others.

Choosing to work the more unpopular shifts are a great way of earning extra income.

  • Holidays
  • Weekends
  • Off-shifts

These shifts typically offer higher pay, which is something to keep in mind when you’re considering travel nursing gigs.

And great news.

If you’re a night owl, you will be excited to know that night shifts are not only more prevalent in the realm of travel nursing, but they also pay more.


Another fun perk to travel nursing is the opportunity to earn bonuses.

Travel nurses can score big on: 

  • Completion bonuses, such as Trusted Nurse Services’ “Loyalty Rewards Program,” which allows nurses to accumulate points upon the completion of each successful travel nursing assignment. Earned points can be redeemed for all sorts of cool gifts.
  • Referral bonuses, such as the “Refer-a-Friend” Program where you can earn $500 for each referral who successfully completes their first assignment.
  • Sign-on bonuses. 
  • Extension bonuses for extending a contract past the agreed-upon end date.
  • Bonuses for working on specific days or certain shifts such as every holiday that falls within your travel nursing assignment.

How Much More Do Travel Nurses Make Than Staff Nurses?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

How much more do travel nurses make than staff nurses?

Average Salary for a Travel Nurse

It’s important to note that travel nursing pay works a bit differently than traditional nursing pay. 

As a traveling nurse, part of your pay is taxed while the other part of your payment is received in the form of tax-free stipends for things such as housing, meals, and travel expenses. 

Additionally, travel nurse pay is relative since it depends on how many assignments the travel nurse chooses to take during the year.

Since they can choose to work unlimited assignments and have the option of selecting the higher-paying positions, travel nurses have more control over their income than staff nurses do. 

How much money can you make as a travel nurse?

Depending on the assignment, a travel nurse has the opportunity to make:

  • Up to $50 per hour, or
  • Over $100,000 per year

Average Salary for a Staff Nurse

How does the pay for a traveling nurse compare to the salary for a staff nurse?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly income for a registered nurse is:

  • $35.24 per hour, or
  • $73,300 per year


do travel nurses make more


3 Non-Taxable Stipends That Can Increase Your Take Home Pay Amount

Why do travel nurses get paid more than staff nurses?


This component plays a huge factor in making a travel nurse’s take-home pay considerably higher than that of their stationary counterparts. 

Stipends are tax-free as long as it can be shown they are being used to cover duplicate expenses, meaning they are going towards the payment of “typical” living expenses such as food, housing, and incidentals.

Since stipends are classified as reimbursement, rather than income, they are considered to be non-taxable.

So, a travel nurse can bring home higher pay when compared to a staff nurse, who is required to pay taxes on all of their income. 

Travel nursing taxes will look quite different from those of a staff nurse, so you’ll want to be sure to consult with your tax professional.


why do travel nurses make more than staff nurses


#1: Travel Stipends

Travel stipends can be provided in a couple of different ways:

  • Some travel nursing agencies will pay out half of the travel stipend in the nurse’s first check and the other half on the last check of the nursing assignment, or
  • The alternate method is for the nurse staffing agency to pay all the costs upfront.

#2: Housing Stipends

A travel nurse’s housing stipend is a sum of money offered by the agency to cover the cost of housing while on a travel nursing assignment. 

The stipend for housing is a fun benefit because rather than having to rely on preselected housing, you have the opportunity to choose where you want to live.

Some of the most common housing choices for travel nurses are:

  • Apartments,
  • Condos,
  • Airbnb’s,
  • Extended stay hotels,
  • RVs,
  • Or even staying with friends or family.

Housing stipends are usually paid in a prorated amount on each weekly paycheck.

#3: Meal Stipends

Meal stipends are another huge piece of the travel nursing pie.

Typically, traveling nurses will receive around $250 per week for meals.

So whether you are a drive-thru Sue or gourmet cook, you’ll be able to satisfy your palate.

Top Non-Monetary Benefits of Travel Nursing

It’s easy to see that travel nurses make great money.

But there are plenty of other benefits that make travel nursing a great option:

  • As a traveling nurse, you can stay out of hospital politics. This alone may be all the incentive you need.
  • Flexibility.  When you’re a travel nurse you can take time off for your high school reunion or for that long-anticipated vacation.
  • The opportunity to add to your resume. You’ll gain experience in multiple facets of the nursing profession.  As a traveling nurse, you’ll get to work in a variety of departments and meet physicians and nurses who do things in different ways than what you’re accustomed to. You’ll be gaining valuable, diversified experience.
  • You’ll get the chance to visit new places and meet new people.  Who knows, you may make a lifelong friend or find the perfect place to retire.

Looking to Get the Most Out of Your Travel Nursing Career? Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help

Are you ready to pack your bags and start your travel nursing career?

Or maybe you’re already on the road and considering switching agencies. 

Wherever you find yourself in your travel nursing journey, Trusted Nurse Staffing has the support and resources you’ll need to make the very most of your travel nursing career.


do travel nurses make more