It’s generally accepted that nursing is a well-paid profession.

But did you know that, on average, travel nurses make even more money than staff nurses?

What are the reasons for this pay bump? And is the extra money worth the possible hassles of those circumstances?

We’ll fill you in on the many reasons why travel nurses are paid so much, and share where you can look to find the best jobs in the field.


why are travel nurses paid so much


Table of Contents



What Does the Average Travel Nurse Make?

According to Indeed, the average travel nurse in the United States makes over $120,000 per year. This breaks down to:

  • $51.74 per hour
  • $2,209 per week
  • $8,547 per month

The range of travel nurse salaries goes from $84,602 to $172,246 per year. This can be affected by things like location, specialty, education, and more.

Compare this amount to a non-travel nurse, who makes an average salary of $103,722 per year.


What Is the Highest-Paid Travel Nurse?

Some of the highest-paid travel nursing specialties include:

  • ICU nurses – $142,136 per year
  • ER nurses – $131,764 per year
  • OR nurses – $127,184 per year
  • Labor and delivery nurses – $125,707 per year
  • Oncology nurses – $122,707 per year

The variety of specialties available in which you can gain experience as a travel nurse can open the door to opportunities to earn a higher salary than those who work as a regular staff nurse.

If you’d like to look for high-paying travel nurse jobs in areas that interest you, use Trusted Nurse Staffing’s Pronto job search. Pronto will help you find your dream job. Apply today and start your adventure as soon as possible!


why do travel nurse earn more money


12 Reasons Why Travel Nurses Are Paid More Than Staff Nurses

So why are travel nurses paid so much?

It turns out there are quite a few reasons why travel nurses may make more money than their staff nursing counterparts. 


#1: Difficult-To-Fill Positions

Let’s face it — nursing isn’t the easiest of jobs, even in the best situations. But some healthcare facilities may have particularly stressful or challenging inpatient units that they have trouble keeping staffed.

Nursing shortages and personnel shifts to other, seemingly easier, patient models can leave hospitals with plenty of job openings, and they need to offer higher pay to get them filled.

The upside of travel nurses taking positions such as critical care, operating rooms, and emergency departments is that, even if they’re difficult jobs, they’re only temporary. In most cases, travel nurse jobs only last 13 weeks, although you can request longer or shorter contracts.


#2: Staffing Shortages

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a sharp rise in nursing staffing shortages, but this need isn’t expected to end any time soon. With the aging population requiring more medical care than ever before, a high percentage of nurses reaching retirement age, and nurse burnout causing many others to leave the profession, many healthcare facilities are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with demand.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be about 203,000 openings for registered nurses each year. If hospitals can’t fill these positions with regular staff, they can often entice travel nurses to help fill the shortages.


#3: Seasonal Needs

There are some touristy places where the population massively changes during peak times of the year. Think of a beach town or popular skiing destination. 

It doesn’t make sense to keep full-time staff year-round there, but a typical travel nursing contract is about the length of summer or winter and works perfectly to fill seasonal needs.

You can also consider the fact that cold and flu season can hit harder in colder climates during the winter, so those areas may need an influx of nurses during that time. Or states like Florida and Arizona see a massive convergence of snowbirds during the winter months and need extra nurses to care for that aging sector of the population.


#4: Crisis or Disaster Relief

When some areas developed an especially critical need for more nurses during the recent pandemic, travel nurses were able to make a lot of extra money by working in these places.

But that’s not the only type of crisis that may call for extra nurses. An increase in available medical care is needed for events like:

  • Earthquakes
  • Hurricanes
  • Flooding
  • And more

When travel nurses are hired short-term to help relieve overburdened medical centers in times of crisis or natural disaster, they can help save the day and make extra money in the process.


#5: Remote Areas of Need

It’s no surprise that places that are harder to get to may have trouble attracting nurses to live and work there full-time. Any place that is farther from city populations and “civilization” will usually have to pay more to staff their facilities.

This includes places such as:

  • Alaska
  • National park areas
  • Native American reservations
  • Etc.

It’s often not as easy to live in these areas and, in many cases, the cost of living may be higher because they are so remote.

But if you have a sense of adventure and want to help fill these needs, you can see some amazing things and make a little extra money along the way. Isn’t that part of what the travel nursing lifestyle is about, after all?


#6: Growing Elderly Population

The Baby Boomer generation is now made up of senior citizens. The United States Census Bureau has reported that the number of Americans aged 65 and older grew by a third between 2010 and 2020.

That means that health needs will increase overall as the population continues to age. Travel nurses can help fill in the gaps created by this greater need for care.


why do travel nurses get paid more


#7: Short-Term Leave Coverage

Travel nurses are a great resource to provide coverage for nurses who need short-term leave from their job for any reason. As more employees seek to improve their work-life balance and the general needs of existence arise, staff nurses may need to take extended time off.

These events may include:

  • Medical leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Family leave
  • Compassionate leave
  • And more

Fiscally, it makes more sense for a healthcare facility to pay travel nurses a little more to fill in than to hire other nurses for these types of temporary absences.


#8: In-Demand Specialties

Some medical specialties are more in demand, and with the nursing shortage, they have become even harder to fill.

Some areas that have a high need and may offer better pay for travel nurses are:

  • Medical-surgical
  • Critical care
  • Pediatrics
  • Home health
  • Operating room
  • Trauma care
  • Psychiatric care
  • And others

If you’re a travel nurse with experience in any of these areas, you may be able to earn extra cash as a result.


#9: Flexibility and Adaptability

Travel nurses are often flexible and can start in as little as a week or two, often with no training needed. They also become more adaptable the more experienced they get.

Since they’re used to dealing with new environments with little to no orientation time, travel nurses are highly attractive to healthcare recruiters and worth the extra money.


#10: Reduced Turnover Costs

With so many facilities having high nursing turnover, it’s cheaper to hire travel nurses with experience than to hire and train brand-new nurses. The savings can be passed on to the travel nurses in pay.

It’s much less costly for recruiters to work with staffing agencies for travel nurses than it is to:

  • Place expensive ads
  • Hold multiple interviews
  • Engage in orientation and training
  • Etc.

And when you consider how often this has to be done when a nurse retires, moves on, or requires a leave of absence, it’s no wonder healthcare facilities like to utilize travel nurses.


#11: Stipends and Bonuses

Travel nurses get some great stipends and bonuses that help pad their paycheck and make it more affordable to live day-to-day. 

Some of the perks you can look forward to when you work with Trusted Nurse Staffing include:

  • The highest pay rates in the industry
  • 401(k) with a 4% match after 1,000 hours and one year of employment
  • Overtime and double time
  • Housing, meal, and travel stipends
  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield health insurance
  • HRA card to cover healthcare deductibles
  • Disability and life insurance
  • Wellness benefits
  • License, certification, and CEU reimbursements
  • Loyalty programs
  • Bonus programs for referrals, sign-on, and completion
  • And more


#12: Reduced Benefits Spending

Healthcare facilities pay a lot for nurse benefits, but they don’t have to worry about this expense when they are paying an agency that has factored this all into the salary of the travel nurse. 

The reduction in the costs of insurance alone allows hospitals to pay travelers more.


why do travel nurse make more money


Is Travel Nurse Pay Sustainable?

The issues we discussed aren’t going away any time soon. The population will continue to age, there’s no easy fix to the nursing shortage, and natural disasters are inevitable.

This means there will continue to be a great need for travel nurses, making their increased pay sustainable.


Get Paid More as a Travel Nurse With Trusted Nurse Staffing

If you’d like to take advantage of the great need for travel nurses and get paid more to see the world while fulfilling your passion to heal people, Trusted Nurse Staffing can help you do that.

A career in travel nursing means having more time to do whatever it is you love. Working with us means your career is in the best possible hands. We strive to deliver exceptional customer service and personal experience every step of the way.

And with the Pronto job search, you can find jobs that meet your needs and spark your professional joy. Get started now and let Trusted Nurse Staffing help you make the most of your career.


why are travel nurses paid so much