How to Become a Travel Nurse 

Written by: Applied Nursing Research Editorial Team   •  May 19, 2024

How to Become a Travel Nurse

In the realm of healthcare, few professions offer the blend of adventure, versatility, and career advancement quite like that of a travel nurse. These healthcare nomads embark on journeys that take them to the far reaches of the country and sometimes even beyond, all while delivering crucial medical care. But what exactly does it mean to be a travel nurse, and why should you consider this path? This article serves as your guide to understanding the world of travel nursing, from the role’s definition to the educational requirements, job prospects, and the crucial question of whether it’s the right career choice for you. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore the enticing world of travel nursing.

What is a Travel Nurse?

Role and Responsibilities

Travel nurses are healthcare professionals who provide temporary nursing services to hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities across the country or even internationally. Their role is dynamic and multifaceted, making them an essential part of the healthcare industry. Travel nurses often step in during critical staffing shortages or to cover specific areas of expertise.

1. Patient Care: Travel nurses are responsible for delivering high-quality patient care, just like permanent staff nurses. They assess patients, administer medications, create care plans, and collaborate with the medical team to ensure the best possible outcomes.

2. Adaptability: One of the defining characteristics of travel nurses is their adaptability. They must quickly acclimate to new environments, procedures, and healthcare cultures. This flexibility is essential for success in this profession.

3. Short-term Commitments: Travel nurses typically work on short-term contracts, often ranging from a few weeks to several months. This allows them to explore different regions and healthcare settings.

4. Specializations: Travel nurses can specialize in various areas of nursing, such as emergency care, intensive care, labor and delivery, or pediatrics, depending on their qualifications and preferences.

Versatility and Flexibility

Travel nurses are known for their versatility and adaptability, which are key attributes in this profession.

1. Varied Work Environments: Travel nurses have the opportunity to work in a wide range of healthcare settings, from large urban hospitals to small rural clinics. This exposure helps them gain valuable experience and expand their skill set.

2. Geographic Mobility: The ability to choose where to work is one of the most appealing aspects of being a travel nurse. They can select assignments in cities or regions they’ve always wanted to explore, combining work with their passion for travel.

3. Work-Life Balance: Travel nurses often have more control over their work schedules, allowing for a better work-life balance. They can take breaks between assignments to recharge or spend time with family and friends.

4. Competitive Compensation: Travel nurses typically receive competitive compensation packages, including higher pay rates, housing stipends, and travel allowances. This financial reward adds to the appeal of this career.

Why Become a Travel Nurse?

Advantages of the Travel Nurse Lifestyle

Becoming a travel nurse offers numerous advantages that go beyond the typical nursing career.

1. Adventure and Exploration: Travel nursing allows you to satisfy your wanderlust. You can live and work in different parts of the country or even internationally, experiencing new cultures and landscapes.

2. Financial Benefits: Travel nurses often earn higher salaries than their permanently placed counterparts. With tax-free housing stipends and other incentives, they can maximize their income while reducing living expenses.

3. Career Growth: Travel nurses gain experience in diverse healthcare settings and build a strong professional network. This exposure can lead to career advancement and specialization opportunities.

4. Learning Opportunities: Every assignment presents a new learning opportunity. Travel nurses encounter unique cases and situations, which enhances their clinical knowledge and skills.

Personal and Professional Growth

The decision to become a travel nurse can be a transformative experience, offering both personal and professional growth.

  • Independence: Travel nurses develop a strong sense of independence as they navigate new cities, healthcare systems, and communities. This independence fosters self-confidence and adaptability.

  • Cultural Competence: Working in different regions exposes travel nurses to various cultures and patient populations. This experience enhances cultural competence and the ability to provide patient-centered care.

  • Networking: Building a diverse network of colleagues and mentors across different healthcare facilities can be invaluable. These connections can open doors to exciting career opportunities.

  • Resume Enhancement: A travel nursing career looks impressive on a resume. Employers appreciate the adaptability, problem-solving skills, and clinical expertise that travel nurses bring to the table.

Benefits of Becoming a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing offers a plethora of benefits that make it an enticing career choice for nurses seeking adventure, financial rewards, and professional growth.

Exploring New Places

One of the most obvious and exciting benefits of becoming a travel nurse is the opportunity to explore new places. Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant energy of a big city, the tranquility of a rural area, or the allure of a coastal paradise, travel nursing allows you to live and work in diverse locations. This unique lifestyle enables you to immerse yourself in different cultures, cuisines, and communities, creating unforgettable memories along the way.

Competitive Compensation

Travel nurses are well-compensated for their expertise and willingness to move. Their compensation packages often include:

1. Higher Pay: Travel nurses typically earn higher wages than their stationary counterparts. This is due to the demand for their specialized skills and the temporary nature of their assignments.

2. Housing Stipends: Many travel nursing contracts include housing stipends, which can cover or significantly offset the cost of accommodations. This financial perk further increases the appeal of the profession.

3. Travel Allowances: Travel nurses receive travel allowances to cover transportation expenses, such as flights or gas for driving to their assignments. This helps make the transition between locations smooth and cost-effective.

4. Tax Advantages: Travel nurses may benefit from tax advantages, as some of their income is tax-free, especially if it goes toward housing or living expenses.

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Educational Requirements

Becoming a travel nurse requires meeting specific educational prerequisites and gaining relevant experience.

To start, you’ll need a nursing degree, typically either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many healthcare facilities prefer or require BSN-prepared nurses due to the advanced clinical skills and knowledge they possess. Therefore, aspiring travel nurses should consider pursuing a BSN to enhance their employability and earning potential.

In addition to the degree, you’ll need to obtain a nursing license in the state where you plan to work. Nursing licensure requirements vary by state, so it’s essential to research the specific licensing requirements for your chosen destination.

Furthermore, some travel nursing positions may require specialized certifications, such as certifications in critical care, pediatrics, or neonatal nursing. These certifications can make you more competitive in the job market and may lead to higher-paying assignments.

Reasons to Study Online

Choosing online education can be a strategic decision for aspiring travel nurses, offering numerous advantages that align with their unique lifestyle.

The Convenience of Online Education

Online nursing programs provide flexibility and convenience, making it easier for individuals to pursue their education while preparing for a career as a travel nurse.

1. Location Independence: Online courses can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This means you can study while on assignment, at home, or even while traveling.

2. Flexible Schedules: Online programs often offer asynchronous learning, allowing you to study at your own pace and on your own schedule. This flexibility is invaluable when balancing coursework with work commitments.

3. Reduced Commute Time: Eliminating the need to commute to a physical campus saves both time and money, giving you more resources to invest in your education.

Balancing Education with Work and Travel

For those already working as nurses or preparing to embark on a travel nursing career, online education provides the flexibility to balance learning with other responsibilities and travel assignments.

Continuing Employment: Many aspiring travel nurses are already working as nurses. Online education allows them to maintain their current job while studying for advanced degrees or certifications.

Seamless Transitions: Online programs can seamlessly fit into the transient lifestyle of travel nurses. You can start your education before your next assignment and continue it regardless of your location.

Career Advancement: Online education can help you pursue higher nursing degrees or certifications, opening doors to more specialized roles and higher earning potential.

Access to Accredited Programs

Online nursing programs have gained credibility and accreditation over the years, ensuring that you receive a quality education that meets industry standards.

1. Accredited Institutions: Many reputable universities and colleges offer online nursing programs that are accredited by recognized accrediting bodies. This ensures that the education you receive is of high quality and respected by employers.

2. Diverse Program Offerings: Online education provides access to a wide range of nursing programs, from bachelor’s and master’s degrees to specialized certifications. This variety allows you to tailor your education to your career goals.

Gaining Clinical Experience

Travel nursing agencies and healthcare facilities typically look for candidates with a strong clinical background. To gain valuable experience, consider working in a variety of healthcare settings early in your nursing career. Acquiring experience in different departments and specialties will not only make you a more attractive candidate for travel nursing assignments but also enhance your overall nursing skills.

Many travel nurses start their careers in staff nurse positions in hospitals, nursing homes, or clinics. This foundational experience allows them to build their clinical expertise and develop the confidence necessary for travel nursing.

Preparing a Standout Resume

Creating an impressive resume is crucial for landing travel nursing assignments. Your resume should highlight your education, certifications, clinical experience, and any special skills or qualifications that set you apart from other candidates.

Emphasize your adaptability and flexibility in your resume, as these qualities are highly valued in travel nurses. Mention any prior travel experience, language proficiency, or cultural competency, as these attributes can be assets when working in diverse locations.

Tailor your resume to each job application by focusing on the skills and experiences that align with the specific assignment. Highlight your ability to quickly acclimate to new environments and your commitment to delivering high-quality patient care.

Where You Can Work as a Travel Nurse?

Travel nursing offers the opportunity to work in a variety of healthcare settings across the United States and around the world. As a travel nurse, you can choose assignments in locations that align with your preferences and career goals.

Diverse Work Settings

Travel nurses can find assignments in a wide range of healthcare facilities, including:

  • Hospitals: From large, urban medical centers to small, rural hospitals, there are opportunities to work in various hospital settings.

  • Clinics and Urgent Care Centers: If you prefer a more outpatient-focused setting, you can explore assignments in clinics and urgent care centers.

  • Rehabilitation Centers: These facilities cater to patients recovering from surgeries, injuries, or illnesses, offering specialized care and therapy.

  • Long-Term Care Facilities: Nursing homes and long-term care facilities provide care for elderly or chronically ill patients who require extended medical attention.

  • Specialty Hospitals: Some travel nursing assignments are available in specialty hospitals, such as pediatric or psychiatric hospitals, allowing you to focus on specific patient populations.

Choosing Ideal Locations

One of the perks of being a travel nurse is the ability to select your work locations. You can explore different cities, states, or even countries based on your interests and preferences. Some factors to consider when choosing your assignments include:

Geographic Location: Do you prefer urban, suburban, or rural settings? Consider the climate, proximity to family and friends, and lifestyle preferences.

Job Market: Research the demand for travel nurses in your chosen location. Some regions may have a higher need for healthcare professionals than others.

Licensing Requirements: Ensure you meet the state or country-specific licensing requirements for your chosen destination.

Housing and Accommodations: Check if the travel nursing agency provides housing options or housing stipends in the area where you’ll be working.

Travel Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

Travel nursing offers competitive compensation and favorable job prospects, making it an attractive career choice for many nurses.

Salary Expectations

According to Payscale, the average annual salary for a travel nurse is about $82,500 per year. However, this can vary significantly based on factors such as location, work experience, and level of education.

In addition to your base salary, travel nursing compensation packages may include housing stipends, travel allowances, health benefits, and retirement contributions. The tax advantages of travel nursing can further increase your take-home pay.

Job Prospects and Market Demand

The demand for travel nurses remains robust, especially in areas with nursing shortages or during peak healthcare seasons. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of healthcare staffing, further increasing opportunities for travel nurses.

Travel nursing agencies are continually seeking qualified candidates to fill positions across various specialties and regions. This demand ensures that travel nurses have a wide range of assignments to choose from, enhancing job security and career flexibility.

Should You Become a Travel Nurse?

While travel nursing offers many advantages, it may not be the right career choice for everyone. Consider the following factors to determine if becoming a travel nurse aligns with your goals and lifestyle:

Assessing Your Personal Goals

Adventure and Exploration: Are you eager to explore new places and cultures while working in healthcare?

Financial Objectives: Do you seek competitive compensation and the potential to save or invest more?

Career Growth: Are you interested in gaining diverse clinical experiences and expanding your nursing skills?

 Weighing the Challenges

Frequent Relocations: Are you comfortable with the prospect of moving every few months for a new assignment?

Adaptability: Can you quickly adjust to different healthcare environments and work with new teams?

Work-Life Balance: Are you prepared to manage the demands of travel nursing and maintain a work-life balance?

Consider how a travel nursing career aligns with your personal life, including family, relationships, and long-term goals. Speak with experienced travel nurses and seek guidance from healthcare staffing agencies to make an informed decision.

Travel Nurse FAQ

As you consider a career as a travel nurse, you may have questions and concerns. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help address your queries:

Q1. What exactly is a travel nurse?

A travel nurse is a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) who works on short-term contracts, typically lasting a few weeks to several months, at various healthcare facilities across different locations. These professionals are often employed by travel nursing agencies and provide temporary nursing services where there is a demand for healthcare staff.

Q2. How does travel nursing differ from traditional nursing?

Travel nursing differs from traditional nursing in that it involves moving to different locations for each assignment. Travel nurses are contracted for specific durations and can choose their work locations. This flexibility is one of the defining features of travel nursing.

Q3. Is the pay for travel nurses better than that of permanent nurses?

Yes, travel nurses typically earn higher wages than permanent staff nurses. In addition to their base pay, travel nurses often receive housing stipends, travel allowances, and other financial incentives. Earnings can vary based on location, specialization, and experience.

Q4. Are travel nurse salaries consistent across the country?

No, travel nurse salaries vary depending on the demand for nurses in a particular region, the cost of living, and the healthcare facility’s budget. Locations with nursing shortages or high living costs generally offer higher compensation.

Q5. What are the educational requirements to become a travel nurse?

To become a travel nurse, you need a nursing degree, either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many healthcare facilities prefer BSN-prepared nurses. You must also obtain a nursing license in the state where you plan to work.

Q6. How long does it take to become a travel nurse after completing nursing school?

The timeline to become a travel nurse varies depending on your educational path. If you have already completed your nursing program and obtained your license, you can start working as a travel nurse immediately after securing an assignment. If you are still in nursing school, it can take several years to gain the necessary experience and qualifications.

Q7. What are the advantages of becoming a travel nurse?

The advantages of becoming a travel nurse include the opportunity to explore new places, higher earning potential, career growth, learning experiences, and a flexible lifestyle that allows you to balance work with travel and personal life.

Q8. Are there any downsides or challenges to being a travel nurse?

Travel nursing can come with challenges, such as frequent relocations, the need for adaptability, and the potential for extended time away from family and friends. It’s essential to weigh these challenges against the benefits and determine if they align with your goals and lifestyle.

Q9. Can I complete all my nursing education online and still become a travel nurse?

Yes, you can complete the theoretical portions of your nursing education online. Many universities and colleges offer accredited online nursing programs, including BSN programs and specialized certifications. However, you’ll still need to meet clinical experience requirements, which typically involve hands-on practice in healthcare facilities.

Q10. Can I apply for travel nursing positions online?

Yes, travel nursing agencies and healthcare staffing websites provide online platforms where you can browse and apply for travel nursing assignments. You can also communicate with recruiters and submit your application and documentation digitally.


In the quest to become a travel nurse, you’ve embarked on a journey filled with adventure, learning, and the potential for a rewarding career. Throughout this guide, we’ve explored the ins and outs of this unique profession, delving into what it means to be a travel nurse, the reasons to pursue this path, and the multitude of benefits it offers.

As a travel nurse, you have the privilege of stepping into diverse healthcare settings, providing critical care, and making a difference in the lives of patients across the country and around the world. Your adaptability and flexibility allow you to thrive in various environments, from bustling urban hospitals to serene rural clinics.

Financially, travel nursing often leads to higher compensation, with competitive salaries, housing stipends, and other perks that enhance your earning potential. This career path also opens doors to career growth and specialization, as you gain experience in different specialties and build a network of professional contacts.

While the advantages are plentiful, it’s essential to consider the challenges, including frequent relocations, the need for adaptability, and the impact on your work-life balance. Travel nursing may not be the ideal choice for everyone, and it’s crucial to assess whether it aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Whether you’re drawn to travel nursing for the thrill of exploration, the financial benefits, or the opportunity to diversify your nursing career, remember that this path is about more than just the places you’ll go. It’s a journey of personal and professional growth, cultural enrichment, and the chance to make a lasting impact on patients’ lives.

As you embark on your own travel nursing adventure, remember to stay informed, seek guidance from experienced travel nurses and healthcare staffing agencies, and prioritize self-care to maintain a healthy work-life balance. With dedication, adaptability, and a passion for nursing, you’ll find that becoming a travel nurse can be a fulfilling and rewarding choice that enriches both your career and your life. Safe travels and best of luck in your exciting journey ahead!

Related Articles

May 19, 2024

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse

Are you considering a career in healthcare and wondering, “How long does it take to become a nurse?” You’re not alone.Read More »

May 19, 2024

How to Become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the demand for mental health services worldwide. Factors such as increased awareness of mental health issues, reduced stigma surrounding seeking help, and the impact of global events on mental well-being have all contributed to this growing need.Read More »