Are NICU Travel Nurse Jobs Right for You? - TNS 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

You’re a NICU nurse. You have a passion for babies. 

It’s one of the toughest — but most rewarding — nursing jobs out there. 

But you’re beginning to wonder about expanding your experience and becoming a NICU travel nurse. 

We get it — It’s a hard decision to make to jump into something new.

But, we’re here to assure you that many nurses of all fields have successfully transitioned from permanency to adventure — while still doing what they love

We’ll teach you all you need to know about NICU travel nursing as you consider what’s right for you and your career.



Table of Contents


neonatal travel nurse salary


Can You Be a Traveling NICU Nurse?

Yes — NICU travel nurse jobs are plentiful, and NICU nurses are in demand. 

Working as a NICU travel nurse allows you to follow your passion for caring for babies — while also following your passion for travel and adventure. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing can help you do what you love while offering flexible contracts so you can still have time for

  • Traveling
  • Exploring
  • Date night
  • Girl’s night; or
  • Family time

… on your terms. You can be passionate about your career without sacrificing your other priorities.




What Does a NICU Travel Nurse Do?

NICU travel nurses perform the same job duties as permanent NICU nurses — and it’s not just changing tiny diapers all day.

NICU travel nurse jobs include:

  • Providing round-the-clock care to premature and severely ill newborn infants 
  • Caring for the basic needs of infants, such as:
    • Feeding and changing diapers
  • Performing medical procedures, such as:
    • Inserting intravenous lines
    • Performing tests
    • Administering medications 
  • Assisting the NICU physicians in medical procedures and treatments
  • Using specialized medical equipment 
  • Formulating nursing plans and evaluating the effectiveness of treatments 
  • Comforting the infants and their nervous and scared parents and family
  • Offering support to parents and family members with education on continuing at-home care

What Are the Qualities of Someone Well-Suited for NICU Travel Nurse Jobs?

A NICU travel nurse should be:

  • Flexible and able to prioritize effectively 
  • Highly observant
  • Able to determine the best course of action quickly
  • Empathetic and understanding toward parents and family
  • Passionate about babies
  • Knowledgeable of the physiologic and psychological needs of newborns
  • Able to work well within a multidisciplinary team 

How to Become a Travel NICU Nurse: 4 Steps

Step #1: Become a Registered Nurse

NICU nurses begin by following the same education pathways as any registered nurse. 

You have two choices:

  • Pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN)
    • Takes 2 years (going full-time)


  • Pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)
    • Takes 4 years (going full-time)

When working toward your ADN, most coursework is focused on foundational nursing skills.

But a BSN program includes more general education courses in the humanities and social sciences in addition to the foundational nursing courses.  

The last two years of a BSN program focus on …

  • Nursing techniques
  • Theory; and
  • Ethics 

… where you can gain hands-on practice participating in clinical and laboratory courses. 

In some programs, students can begin learning about neonatal nursing while still in school. 

After graduation, many nurses begin their NICU nursing career by starting in a general pediatrics unit and working their way up. 

Others may be able to participate in a graduate nursing residency in neonatal nursing. This allows new graduates to gain paid work experience while continuing their education on how to care for NICU babies. 

Note that nurses with a BSN are often given priority. 

No matter which degree you pursue, both prepare students to take the required NCLEX-RN. And both programs qualify for RN licensure. 

 Step #2: Pass the Licensure Examination

The NCLEX-RN evaluates basic nursing skills. 

These skills include:

  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Safety and infection control
  • Physiological adaptation
  • Psychosocial integrity 

The earliest date that you can take the NCLEX-RN exam varies by state. But the majority of students test about 45 days after they graduate from nursing school

State licensing can vary state-to-state. Learn what your state requires here


nicu travel nurse salary


Step #3: Obtain Additional Certificates

After you’ve earned licensure, you can pursue several different certifications in neonatal care. 

It’s not a requirement to become a NICU nurse, but it will help with your career advancement. 

NICU nursing is a specialty that requires additional certifications.

Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) certification is a basic requirement. More comprehensive neonatal nursing certifications are available through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

The National Certification Corporation offers an RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC).

The 3 prerequisites for this credential are:

  1. An active RN license
  2. 24 months of specialized experience as an RN
    • Minimum of 2,000 direct patient care hours, education, administration, or research
  3. A passing score on a qualifying exam

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses also grants a CCRN Neonatal specialty certification to applicants who possess 1,700-2,000 hours in direct care of acutely or critically ill NICU patients. 

Additional certifications for a NICU nurse include:

  • Low Risk Neonatal Nursing (RNC-LRN)
  • Neonatal Pediatric Transport (C-NPT)
  • Basic Life Support (BLS
  • Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)
  • Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM)

Step #4: Gain Relevant Experience

You’ll need two or more years of clinical experience working with NICU patients before you can apply to take a certification exam for neonatal nursing. 

You should aim for experience working in areas such as:

  • Pediatric nursing
  • Maternal-child nursing
  • Well baby nursing
  • Labor and delivery nursing 

Most NICU travel nurse jobs are going to require a minimum of 1-2 years of experience in the specialty of neonatal care in a hospital setting. 

If you think you’d make a great NICU travel nurse, we’d love to help you make your dreams come true. You can get started today by creating a free profile below.




Why Travel Nursing Jobs as a NICU Nurse Might Be Right for You 

Travel nursing jobs as a NICU nurse can offer you:

  • More money
  • A chance to sharpen your clinical skills
  • The ability to work in a wide variety of patient populations
  • Paid travel to explore the country
  • More time with family and friends
  • Freedom and flexibility to work where you want – when you want

Ever-Changing NICU Travel Nursing Assignments

Experiencing new locations every few months is one of the biggest perks of working as a NICU travel nurse. 

From the thrills of New York City to the breathtaking views and outdoor adventure of Denver, there are no limits to where NICU travel nurse jobs can take you. 

Assignments are available in all 50 states. 

From major cities to small-town life, you can take advantage of what each city has to offer. Travel nursing provides you with the opportunity to live in any place you desire — something few other jobs can offer

How Long Do NICU Travel Nurse Job Assignments Last?

Assignments typically last 13 weeks. 

Ready for a new NICU adventure? You can accept another assignment in a new location.

Need a break? You can choose to take a week or more off if needed to visit family, friends, or just ‘Netflix and Chill’ for a bit.

Loving your current NICU assignment?  You can ask for an extension.

Another huge perk of travel nursing is the flexibility it provides!

What Are the Best Cities for NICU Travel Nursing Assignments?

Travel nurses choose their assignments for many different reasons:

  • Best paying area
  • Great need
  • Best outdoor adventure
  • Best nightlife
  • Close to family
  • Quiet, rural life

So, the best city for one nurse might make the bottom of the list for another. 

But some assignments seem to be more popular than others. 

When thinking of NICU travel nurse assignments, consider these 10 cities:

  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. New York, NY
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Washington D.C.
  5. Los Angeles, CA
  6. Chicago, IL
  7. Anchorage, AK
  8. Miami, FL
  9. Modesto, CA 
  10. Summersville, WV

Competitive Neonatal Travel Nurse Salary

The average annual pay for a permanent NICU nurse is around $74,000. 

That’s pretty good, but …

The average annual pay for a NICU travel nurse is $105,503. 

This works out to be about $50.72 per hour — $2,029 per week — or $8,792 per month. 

NICU travel nurse salary can depend on:

  • The assignment location
  • The demand for NICU nurses
  • The travel nurse staffing agency; and
  • Your nursing credentials and experience 

Which States Offer the Highest NICU Travel Nurse Salaries?

Salary and staffing trends can vary depending on a few timing factors, such as:

  • Time of year
  • Time of staffing shortages 
  • Time of natural disaster
  • Time of crisis

But these 10 states tend to consistently rank as the highest paying states for NICU travel nurses:

  1. California
  2. Hawaii
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Oregon 
  6. New York
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Vermont
  9. Wyoming 
  10. West Virginia 



Are Neonatal Travel Nurses in High Demand?

As a NICU nurse, you’re in high demand. 

Neonatal nursing is an in-demand specialty for travel nurse jobs. 

Besides caring for tiny humans, you also act as an …

  • Advocate
  • Educator; and
  • Emotional support

… for your patients’ families during stressful and often scary times. 

A study by JAMA Pediatrics reported a 22% increase in the number of babies admitted to the NICU over six years — and that trend has continued

Combined with a continuing nursing shortage, you’re likely to find yourself in constant demand for NICU travel nurse jobs. 

If You’re Looking for NICU Travel Nurse Jobs, Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help

Trusted Nurse Staffing is here to help you land the top NICU travel nurse jobs at the pay you want, where you want. 

But we offer more than just great pay for our nurses.

Our many benefits include:

  • Generous housing, meal, and travel stipends
  • Customized benefits package 
  • HRA card to cover healthcare deductibles
  • Referral bonuses 
  • Sign-on and completion bonuses
  • 401K with 4% match after 1000-hours and 1-year of employment 
  • Overtime pay
  • Direct deposit
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance packages
  • Dental and vision packages 
  • License, certifications, and CEU reimbursement
  • A fun loyalty program

Are you ready to begin your career as a NICU travel nurse?

Get started today by simply clicking below to create your free profile.

One of the recruiters at Trusted Nurse Staffing will be in touch to discuss every aspect of this exciting career choice. 

Our goal is to deliver a personalized experience and exceptional customer service every step of the way.

Whether in the NICU or in another nursing position, your travel nursing career is in the best possible hands with Trusted Nurse Staffing.