You are considering a career change and have read some articles online about travel nursing.

Job flexibility.

Exploring new cities.

Top-notch pay.

It sounds so intriguing, and you’re wondering, “How long does it take to become a travel nurse?” 

Our guide outlines everything you need to know to begin your career as a travel nurse.


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becoming a travel nurse


How Do You Become A Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is an RN (Registered Nurse) who is hired on a contract basis to fill a short-term medical staffing necessity.

Typically, a traveling nurse contract is 13-weeks long. However, assignments can range anywhere from 1 month to 1 year.

Travel nurses have the opportunity to work in all sorts of healthcare facilities, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Outpatient facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • In-home care
  • Correctional facilities 
  • Insurance Companies

As a traveling nurse, you may be called upon to fill various staffing needs, which can encompass:

  • Filling in gaps between full-time nursing hires 
  • Providing any needed extra staffing support during busy times such as natural disasters or pandemics
  • Acting as supplemental nursing staff during the holidays 
  • Filling in for regular staff who may be out temporarily for personal reasons or health-related issues
  • Offering additional assistance during the flu season
  • Meeting critical staffing deficits in hard-to-fill positions

Let’s take a look at what is involved in becoming a travel nurse.

How Many Years Does It Take To Become a Traveling Nurse?

How long does it take to be a travel nurse?

The education requirements for travel nurse positions include 2 to 4 years of education, depending upon the path you choose to become a registered nurse.

Requirements To Become a Traveling Nurse

The first requirement in meeting the qualifications to become a travel nurse is to become a registered nurse.

A registered nurse, or RN, is a nurse who has:

  • Graduated from a nursing program, and
  • Obtained a nursing license by meeting the requirements set forth by their state. 

Also, in order to be a travel nurse, you must have completed at least one year of experience in your nursing specialty.

According to Becker’s Hospital review, the top 10 high-demand specialties with the best rate of pay are:

  • Labor and delivery
  • Operating room
  • Neonatal intensive care unit
  • Post-anesthesia care unit
  • Intensive care unit
  • Emergency room
  • Pediatric unit
  • Step-down unit
  • Telemetry

How Do I Get Started As a Traveling Nurse?

Once you have completed the educational and licensing requirements for becoming a travel nurse, your next step is to get in touch with a travel nurse staffing agency, such as Trusted Nurse Staffing.




5 Steps To Becoming a Travel Nurse

How do you become a travel nurse?

Here is the nitty-gritty.

Receive an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing

The first thing you will need to do to be a travel nurse is to become a registered nurse.

There are a couple of paths you can select in order to meet that requirement. 

First, you can choose to get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).  

  • An ADN is generally a 2-year degree.
  • It combines in-class instruction along with clinical rotations.
  • The main emphasis of an ADN is day-to-day care along with technical, clinical tasks, including updating patient charts, taking care of basic administrative procedures, and monitoring patient care.
  • Upon completing their Associate Degree in Nursing, a nursing student must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.
  • ADN programs are usually offered by community colleges and nursing schools.
  • The Associate Degree in Nursing program is the fastest way to become a registered nurse.
  • Typically, an ADN is less expensive than a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Alternately, you may opt to get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

  • A BSN can take up to 4 years to complete
  • A nurse who obtains their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree has a higher level of training in clinical skills than a nurse who has an ADN.
  • Nurses receiving a BSN get additional training in the areas of management, research, and leadership 
  • A BSN has a higher earning potential than an ADN 
  • Holding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree qualifies you to pursue a number of additional positions such as:
  • Nurse educator 
  • Public health nurse
  • Chief nursing officer
  • Healthcare manager
  • Nurse administrator 
  • Director of Nursing
  • Nursing informatics 
  • Telemedicine nursing
  • Legal nurse consultant
  • Pharmaceuticals

Can You Become a Travel Nurse Right Out of College?

No. You can not become a travel nurse right out of college.

One of the qualifications to be a travel nurse is that you have at least 1 to 2 years of experience in the nursing profession.

Pass The NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) Exam

Once you are a qualified registered nurse, the next step in becoming a travel nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX.

What is the NCLEX, you ask? 

  • The National Council Licensure Examination is a nation-wide exam that oversees the licensing of nurses in the United States, Australia, and Canada. An applicant may sit for the NCLEX in any state, regardless of where they would like to practice. 
  • The NCLEX was designed to test the skills, knowledge, and abilities nurses must exhibit to safely and effectively practice nursing at the basic level.
  • The National Council Licensure Examination is administered by The National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc (NCSBN)
  • There are two different types of NCLEX exams: 
    • NCLEX-RN for registered nurses
    • NCLEX-PN for practical or vocational nurses

The National Council Licensure Exam covers a wide range of material, and nurses are scored according to their ability to think critically about decisions they will need to make involving patient care.


be a travel nurse


Become Licensed In Your State

Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you will be ready to apply to your state’s Board of Nursing (BON) to obtain your nursing license. 

For the most part, the licensing process is pretty much the same from state-to-state.

You will send your nursing transcripts, application, and fees to the Board of Nursing in your state.

The Board of Nursing will then examine evidence to ensure that you meet the qualifications for that state’s Nurse Practice Act (NPA). 

Just think of the NPA as your book of nursing rules.

Each state has its own unique Nurse Practice Act that nurses must learn and live by when working as a registered nurse in that state. 

The Nurse Practice Act makes sure that all registered nurses are both qualified and competent in their jobs. 

And while NPA qualifications vary from state to state, they may require proof of: 

  • Proficiency in the English language 
  • Sound mental and physical health 
  • Upstanding moral character
  • A criminal background check to ensure an absence of any felony convictions




Updating Your License

But what if you obtained your nursing license in one state and want to be a travel nurse in a different state?

This is where the Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC, can be a great asset.

The Nursing License Compact allows a nurse to hold a multi-state license, which gives them the ability to practice in their home state, as well as in other compact states. 

Currently, 34 states have enacted NLC legislation, with legislation pending in an additional 12 states.

In order to qualify for a compact nursing license, you must be a current resident of a compact license state.

Once you have obtained your license in a compact license state, you’re able to expand your license into additional states.

There will be fees and other requirements that vary from state to state.

But what if you live in a state that does not participate in compact nurse licensing?

If that is the case, you will have to apply for licensure by endorsement to the Board of Nursing in the state in which you would like to practice.

New states are continually joining the NLC, so you will want to check back regularly to see if your state-of-choice may be a new addition.

Gain Nursing Experience

Once you complete the education requirements for travel nurse positions, most employers will want to see that you have at least one year of practical work experience before they will consider hiring you.


how do you become a travel nurse


Find a Travel Nurse Staffing Agency You Trust

Your final step in becoming a travel nurse is to choose a travel nurse staffing agency you can trust.

How can you do that?

Talk extensively with your recruiter, asking critical questions such as:

  • What are some benefits your agency offers its nurses?
  • What types of facilities does your agency staff?
  • Do you have a support system if I have a need or an issue?
  • What states are you prominent in?
  • What are the conditions of your travel nurse contracts?
  • Tell me about the onboarding process with your agency?
  • What makes you unique, and why should I choose your agency over all the others out there? 

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we welcome your questions.

For two years running, we have been recognized as one of the fastest-growing travel nurse staffing agencies in the US. 

Our mission is to connect the nation’s best healthcare professionals to the most respected healthcare facilities.

How Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help You Transition To Travel Nursing

How can Trusted Nurse Staffing help you smoothly reach your goal of becoming a travel nurse? 

  • We have flexible contracts with everything from per diem to 52-week assignments.
  • All of our nurses have 24-hour access to their recruiter.
  • Every new travel nurse gets a fun welcome box that includes swag from the Trusted Nurse Staffing store.
  • We provide vision and dental plans.
  • Our quality assurance department ensures that you will have the best possible travel nurse experience. 
  • We have a cool loyalty program that gives you the opportunity to earn a wide array of gifts.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, your career happiness is our specialty.


For more information on starting your career as a travel nurse check out our Career Resources page.