Travel Nurse Salary: Breaking Down How Much Travel Nurses Make

Travel Nurse Salary: Breaking Down How Much Travel Nurses Make

How Much Do RNs and LPNs Make with Travel Jobs?

When it comes to making serious choices about a career, regardless of the industry you’re a part of, there are two mega considerations that apply across the board:

Will I enjoy the work?

How much will I earn?

For nurses, the commitment both financial and mental that it takes to finish the schooling and become licensed is significant, so you have to be relatively certain that in spite of its challenges, you’ll appreciate the work. So, once you’ve established that yes, you will enjoy the work, you must consider how much your income will be, which varies greatly depending on industry, experience, specialization etc. Therefore, let’s narrow it back down to my favorite topic, travel nursing.

Is Travel Nursing a Dream?

Within the nursing industry, the pandemic has pushed the career of a travel nurse forward into the spotlight. It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Traveling the country, meeting new people, experiencing new surroundings, exploring new hobbies and foods. All of those qualities on their own sound like an exciting vacation, but the fact that a career exists that allows you to do all those things, all while earning a living? Sign me up, oh wait, I’ve already done that, and yes, it is all that and so much more.

When you’ve decided that a travel nurse career sounds exactly like something you’d enjoy – or even better love – the next logical question simply begs to be answered. How much do travel nurses make? Do they truly earn more?

How Much Do Travel Nurses Earn?

Travel nurse salaries vary, and depend on a number of different qualifiers. I’ll take you through that list of qualifiers. However, first for some perspective, let’s take a look at how much registered nurses (RNs) earn.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for registered nurses in 2020 was $75,330 per year or $36.22 per hour. The yearly salary wage is figured according to a 40-hour work week. It’s important to note the words ‘median pay’ which does not signify an average, but instead signifies “the wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less”.

According to Vivian, travel nurses in 2020 had an average gross weekly pay of $1,841, working an average of 36 hours per week, which amounts to $51.14 per hour. That’s quite a bit higher than the median RN wage, for sure.

While that statistic gives you a ballpark, it’s a watered-down number due to the fact that it applies to everyone across the U.S. and we all know that wages vary widely based on your geographic location. For example, the five states that pay the highest wage are:

Registered Nurses (BLS)

Travel Nurses (Vivian)




New Jersey


District of Columbia


Rhode Island



While the five that pay the lowest wage are:

Registered Nurses (BLS)

Travel Nurses (Indeed)

Puerto Rico




South Dakota

South Carolina





It’s important to note that while that demonstrates that geography affects your wage as a nurse, these factors can’t be reflected like a mirror to travel nurse contracts in the same way. One widely known example we can give is Hawaii. Hawaii might be a top earner for local RNs, but for travel nurses it’s not especially lucrative. Why not? Well, simply stated, it’s Hawaii! It’s a popular destination hot spot for travel nurses and so the postings are often highly competitive, this means the facilities don’t have to apply especially lucrative wage packages to attract nursing talent. Who doesn’t want to wander around gorgeous beaches in between shifts?

Is it All Just Geography?

When calculating a travel nurse salary, geography isn’t the only qualifier. There is in fact another qualifier that potentially trumps even geography, and that is need. The higher the need for nurses, typically the more lucrative the pay packages. Remember those headlines earlier on in the pandemic about record-level travel nurse pay packages for COVID contracts? Those were real, on the grounds that the need was so high.

Other Financial Incentives for Travel Nurses with Elite Specialty Staffing

Moreover, a travel nurse contract includes other financial add-ons aside from the hourly or weekly pay rate stipulated. Travel nurses with Elite Specialty Staffing receive agency provided housing, and a food and incidentals stipend. Some nurses use this stipend to find their own accommodations and pocket the leftover. In addition to the stipend, Elite offers its travel nurses a one-time referral bonus. If you refer a nurse and that nurse completes a travel contract with Elite, you can snag that referral bonus in the amount of $300.

Other financial incentives offered by Elite that aren’t so obvious as arriving in the form of money, but are financial nonetheless is all the insurance coverage you can opt for. Professional liability insurance, workman’s compensation insurance are two coverages that not all agencies offer. Nevertheless, they will save you financial hardship if you are ever in a position to need them. Furthermore, the agency offers different packages for health insurance, dental insurance, and vision coverage. Independent contractor nurses typically have to figure out insurance on their own, but not when you team up with Elite Specialty Staffing.

What Matters to You as a Travel Nurse?

Ultimately, while income is a key factor in deciding your career path, and therefore your selections for travel nursing contracts, it shouldn’t be the only consideration. Those record breaking pay packages in the height of the pandemic were for crisis pay in an extremely stressful work environment. Some travel nurses thrive on high adrenaline and high pressure, but that doesn’t mean we all do. Talk to our recruiters about what is important to you in choosing a destination. It’s not a binary choice; either good place and bad pay or bad place but good pay, it’s a gradient. You can find a destination that meets your needs mentally and financially! Give our recruiters a call today!!