A Guide to Travel Nurse Pay Breakdown - Trusted Nurse Staffing 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

Are you a staff nurse and considering transitioning to travel nursing? 

Maybe you’re confused by the travel nurse pay breakdown. 

Or you may be a new travel nurse who’s having difficulty calculating your salary. 

There are so many factors with travel nursing that affect your salary and overall pay — it can become overwhelming and confusing. 

We can help. 

We’ve broken things down to make it easy to get the facts. In this article, you will learn:

  • How a travel nurse salary is calculated
  • Things to think about regarding travel nurse pay packages
  • The importance of maintaining an IRS tax home; and
  • Much more



Table of Contents




2 Things to Consider When Calculating Your Travel Nurse Pay Package

Travel nursing pay packages are quite complex. A few factors are included that aren’t seen in typical compensation packages.

Let’s take a look at two things to consider when calculating your travel nurse pay package.

#1: The Travel Nursing Contract Bill Rate

The bill rate is the starting point for all travel nurse pay packages.

Bill rates are the hourly rates an agency can charge a hospital for the travel nurse’s services. They differ depending on the hospital and contract, and travel nurses may not be aware of the bill rate between the agency and the hospital.

#2: Travel Nursing Contract Time Variables

We must also consider the travel nursing contract’s time variables. 

Our focus needs to be on the number of contracted hours per week and the number of weeks in the contract. This is important since different contracts have different time variables. 

For example, you can find 36-hours per week contracts and others for 40-hours per week. In addition, some contracts last 13-weeks, while others last just eight.

How Is a Travel Nurse Salary Calculated?

Comparing travel nursing pay packages is an essential step in understanding travel nurse pay breakdown and deciding whether to accept a particular job. 

There are online travel nurse pay calculators that can help with this, but it is also essential to calculate without this tool.

Exciting news! 

Trusted Nurse Staffing is in beta testing a new app that will show the estimated weekly take-home pay. This includes the hourly rate and stipends (not broken down). Feel free to reach out to us for more information on the details of your individual travel nurse pay breakdown. 




2 Sample Travel Nursing Pay Packages

Let’s look at two samples to help you estimate your travel nurse pay stub.

Sample #1

An agency has offered 468 anticipated hours for a 13-week assignment, with 36 regular hours per week.

Taxable base rate: $25/hour

Tax-free housing stipend: $1700/month (paid weekly)

Tax-free M&IE stipend: $200/week

Sample #2

An agency has offered 468 anticipated hours for a 13-week assignment, with 36 regular hours per week. 

Taxable base rate: $17/hour

Tax-free housing stipend: $2000/month (paid weekly)

Tax-free M&IE stipend: $275/week

Our first step is to break down the monthly housing stipend into a weekly figure. It is highly recommended that you have your recruiter perform this calculation for you so that there are no misunderstandings.

Assuming the agency is portraying this figure correctly, you can then multiply the monthly figure by three and divide it by 13 to get the weekly figure. 

For Sample #1, we are looking at $392.31. 

For Sample #2, we are looking at $461.54. Three months equal 13 weeks, and there are 4.33 weeks in a month.

Our next step is to calculate the taxes that will be deducted from the paycheck. To accomplish this, we need two things:

  1. Gross weekly taxable wage —  Multiply the taxable base rate by the number of contracted weekly hours. For Sample #1, we are looking at $900 per week. For Sample #2, we are looking at $612 per week.
  2. Estimated taxes payable on weekly taxable income — Recruitment companies and travel nurses may estimate the tax burden based on a ballpark tax rate. For our purpose, let’s calculate that the tax burden is 20%, so that we will multiply the gross weekly taxable wage by 20%. For Sample #1, we are looking at $180. For Sample #2, we are looking at $122.40.

Our last step is to calculate net pay. To do this: 

  • Subtract the expected weekly taxes from the expected wages.
  • Add the balance to the total weekly tax-free stipends.

For Sample #1, we are looking at $900 – $180 = $720 + $592.31 = $1,312.31 net weekly pay. 

For Sample #2, we are looking at $612 – $122.40 = $489.60 + 736.54 =  $1,226.14 net weekly pay.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we know that the travel nurse pay breakdown can be confusing. That’s why our nurses can always ask to see their pay breakdowns. When an assignment is accepted, a package-specific list will be sent.




3 Other Compensations That Could Be Part of Your Travel Nurse Contract

#1: Non-Taxable Travel Nurse Pay

The infamous “tax advantage plan” is the most enticing promotion travel nursing agencies use to get you in the door. This essentially means that if you are traveling for work, certain expenses are tax-deductible, and certain reimbursements are not.

Some non-taxable expenses can be described as: 

  • Per-diems
  • Stipends
  • Reimbursements; or
  • A combination of the three  

These non-taxable expenses typically include: 

  • Relocation expenses
  • Lodging
  • Travel; and
  • Meals

The Disadvantages of Non-Taxable Stipend Pay

Stipend compensation that is not taxable sounds nice, but it has several drawbacks. A few of these include:

  • Social Security — Your taxable income decides how much money goes toward your Social Security retirement benefit via social security contributions — tax-free stipends are not included.
  • Workers Compensation  — This is figured as a percentage of your taxable income. As a result, if you are injured on the job, your worker’s compensation payments might be pretty modest.
  • Loans — Your taxable income influences your ability to borrow. Your taxable income will influence whether you are eligible to buy a new home, automobile, or anything else that requires financing.
  • Future Salary Negotiations — Your tax-free income and resulting smaller W2 total may have an impact on your future compensation tax. Even though this is extremely unlikely, it is possible.




#2: Flex Pay or Rigid Pay

Rigid pay packages are non-negotiable pay packages offered by travel nursing agencies. This type of pay package is when an agency is unwilling to mix and match the compensation variables.

A flexible pay package is exhibited when an agency offers a set of compensation variables that can be mixed and matched. With this type of pay package, you can add or subtract various non-taxable stipends.

Some of these non-taxable stipends might include: 

  • Healthcare
  • Retirement; and 
  • License reimbursements 

Flex pay has the advantage of lowering your hourly taxable base rate, while increasing your non-taxable earnings, by adding more benefits like 401K.

It’s worth noting that you might be able to negotiate a better salary contract in both circumstances. 

On the other hand, negotiating a higher package does not guarantee that the agency will mix and match the components. Instead, it simply means that the agency will increase the total package’s budget.

#3: Travel Nurse Overtime

Some travel nursing companies offer overtime with their contracts. 

Overtime fees are sometimes negotiated separately from the contracted hourly wage by some travel nurse agencies. 

Why? This is because the travel nursing agency covers all of your expenses and perks for the agreed number of hours. Therefore, any time you work above your contractual hours is merely a bonus for the travel nursing agency.

For overtime, most employers will pay you time and a half of your base salary (minus any tax-free amounts).

If you are thinking about negotiating for overtime pay, make sure you get a higher tax rate in exchange for lower non-taxable stipends if at all possible. This will allow you to receive the most bang for your buck.

Things to Think About Regarding Your Travel Nurse Pay Package

Before making the switch to travel nursing, be aware there are a few out-of-pocket expenses that travel nurses must consider that permanent staff nurses do not:

  • The majority of travel nursing agencies do not provide paid vacation time. Therefore, you will not be compensated if you take a vacation or take time off between assignments.
  • The majority of travel nurses are responsible for paying for their own qualifications.
  • Travel nursing agencies may or may not pay for your annual physical and tuberculosis tests.
  • If you want to take a cross-country assignment, your travel reimbursement may not be enough to cover the entire expense.




The Importance of Maintaining an IRS Tax Home for Travel Nurses

To be eligible for non-taxable stipends or reimbursements, you must have a tax home as defined by the IRS. 

A tax home is defined as your primary residence. This is the one you maintain and pay for while on your travel assignment. The IRS prefers that a travel nurse complete an assignment and then return to their tax home. 

Most travel nursing agencies will want you to sign a document verifying that you have a tax home. If you do not have a permanent residence, you will be referred to as an itinerant worker

You will be expected to pay taxes on all income earned as an itinerant worker — including stipends and reimbursements. Make sure that any travel agencies you apply with know your itinerant status.

Let Trusted Nurse Staffing Help You Find the Best Travel Nurse Pay for a Dream Job and Adventure Rolled Into One

If you are a registered nurse who enjoys traveling and wants employment security and a good salary, a career as a travel nurse might be perfect for you.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters have accessibility to a variety of staffing agencies to help you find the work you are looking for. 

We are happy to: 

  • Customize your resume
  • Find jobs
  • Negotiate contracts; and
  • More 

In addition, our team can help you with: 

  • Certifications
  • Training; and
  • Any other requirements

We want to assist you in finding the best travel nursing position for you, so get in touch with us today to get started.