Travel Nurse Pay: The Outlook for 2023


Travel nursing is a great career option, especially if you have a sense of adventure (and don’t mind making a ton of money). As a travel nurse, you can travel within your home state or travel to any state within the US, and you get paid significantly more than you would in a staff position.

With the increasing demand for nurses in general (and travel nurses in particular) still hitting the medical industry hard, it’s no wonder that travel nurse pay continues to stay high.

Average Travel Nurse Pay Rates

The average travel nurse salary in the United States, depending on whom you ask, is anywhere between $115,000 and $130,000 per year.

However, this can vary depending on factors such as experience, qualifications, your specialty, if you take breaks between contracts, and the location you’re working in. For example, the average pay for a travel nurse practitioner is about $165,000 a year, but the average salary for travel nurses in California is about $175,000 per year.

Experienced and highly educated travel nurses in California might be able to make up to $250,000 per year while the same nurse might only make $120,000 a year in Alabama.

If you take long breaks between assignments, obviously you make less that year. The length of the assignment and how desperately the facility needs nurses can also impact pay. Additionally, some hospitals and healthcare facilities may offer bonuses or higher pay rates if you extend the contract.

The highest-paying states for travel nurses are California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. On the other hand, the lowest-paying states for travel nurses are Mississippi, South Dakota, and Alabama.

So much factors into your rate that it’s critical you talk over your pay with a recruiter. They can give you a much better idea of how much you can get for different contracts in different parts of the country.

Keep in mind too that some places will pay more because they struggle to get people to work there, often because they’re not the best place to work (or the city/state isn’t desirable). It’s important that you do your research and understand where you’re going to work before signing a contract — money isn’t everything.

What to Expect From Travel Nurse Pay in 2023

As the demand for travel nurses grows, so does the pay, and demand continues to rise. The RN workforce is going to grow by 6% over the next decade while the advanced practice registered nursing field (nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, etc.) is projected to grow by a whopping 40%.

As the Baby Boomers age, demand is only going to increase. Though COVID raised pay rates far beyond what the travel nursing field had ever seen, rates have not declined to where they were pre-COVID. They’re likely to stay high and continue to rise.

Benefits of Being a Travel Nurse

While the higher pay that travel nurses get compared to their staff counterparts is great, it’s only one of the many benefits of the job.

One of the biggest benefits is the flexibility that comes with being a travel nurse. Travel nurses are free to choose the assignments they take and can move from assignment to assignment as needed.

While in most states you can be a travel nurse in your home state, one of the big benefits for many travel nurses is the ability to explore different areas of the country while getting paid to do so.

With each assignment, travel nurses have the chance to experience a new city and explore different parts of the country. You can stay in the same state for up to a year before you run into tax issues, so many nurses will take one or two contracts in a state and then move on.

Finally, travel nursing is a great way to gain experience and build a strong resume. With each assignment, you’re likely learning new equipment, procedures, and more.

You’re also more likely to get a wider range of on-the-job experiences than you would otherwise, treating patients with illnesses that you might have never come across if you’d stayed at the same hospital your whole career.

This makes you more attractive to employers and can help you land higher-paying jobs in the future, travel or staff.

How to Maximize Your Travel Nurse Pay

If you want to maximize your travel nurse pay, there are several steps you can take.

First, it’s important to negotiate for the highest pay rate possible. Before accepting an assignment, make sure to research the average pay rates for the area and for your specialty. Your recruiter will be happy to work with you to get you the best deal possible, especially if you tell them beforehand the main things you want out of a contract.

However, if you really want the best rate, it’s important to be flexible. Being willing to take on different assignments in locations that aren’t necessarily what you want can often result in higher pay.

Finally, make sure to have a good understanding of the benefits you’re entitled to. This is important because there is much more to look at than just your base pay.

Your housing stipend, for example, is tax-free, and even if your take-home pay might seem lower than what you were looking for, when you factor in the fact that you’re not paying taxes on housing, you might end up making far more than you would have otherwise, especially if you’re able to reduce your housing costs and keep some of the stipend.

In the long run, it’s important to gain additional qualifications and certifications. Having specialized certifications can help you command higher pay rates, and obviously, if you’re able to become an advanced practice nurse, this will give you a larger pay bump than anything else.

Finally, you’ll want to find a balance between high-paying states and states with high costs of living. Sure, California pays the most, but it also costs the most to live there.

Research the cost of living in whatever state you’re thinking about taking a contract in so that you can understand how much you’re really making. Somewhat lower pay in a state that has a much lower cost of living might actually increase how much you’re putting away each month.

Your journey is around the corner, let’s talk! 

If you’re looking for your next greatest adventure, whether it’s your first travel nursing assignment or you’re off to your next, we’re here to help.  

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