Andrew Wettengel / Wednesday, April 24, 2019 / Categories: Work World


Working as a nurse in a specific specialty can be financially rewarding, and doing so in the travel nursing field is no different. New assignments appear every day for specialty nurses, and if you possess the qualifications to accept one of these assignments, it can certainly be worth your time.

How worth it?

On average, traveling nurses earn a higher net income than full-time RN staff, and they have the opportunity to choose where and how often they work. Competitive benefits packages and tax-free incentives are also desirable benefits of a traveling nurse position.

In this post, we’ll look at some average travel salaries, the factors that can impact those numbers and the highest paying specialties.

How much you can make as a travel nurse


We know you want to see some numbers, but it’s important to note that salaries can vary depending on several factors. You want to think of the salary as your net income that includes the compensation you may receive for housing, travel and other living expenses.

Most companies also do not offer paid vacation or personal/sick time and you may still incur duplicate living costs at home, such as mortgage or rent and other upkeep. So there are a few financial considerations to make before packing your bags, but working with an expert at an agency like OneStaff, you’ll get guidance at every step so you can start working faster!

Average salaries of a travel nurse


OK, now that you know it’s hard to predict averages, we’ll still provide you with some numbers. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is one of the main sources to pull salary data, they do not cover traveling nurses. So, here are national averages from our partners, ZipRecruiter’s, travel nurse postings:

  • $92,734/year
  • $7,728/month
  • $45/hour


Again, there’s no insight into whether these numbers include, or don't include, compensation packages and benefits, so it’s hard to cite an average. But it’s certainly possible to make six figures as a traveling nurse.

How do salaries vary by state?


There is a higher demand for nurses in some states, especially in rural communities. In areas where there are nursing shortages, you can likely expect higher wages. For instance, Alaska ranks no. 6 for highest salary, but California, Hawaii and Washington, D.C. are the top three where there is a higher cost of living, which could impact your overall income.

Other states projected to incur a nursing shortage in 2030 are Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina, according to this report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Being a traveling nurse means you have the potential to make a difference in communities where they need your skills!

Highest paying specialties for traveling nurses


To further increase your salary as a traveling nurse, earning a master’s degree with a specialty can be a worthwhile option. According to, the BLS shows that “advance practice registered nurses — those with a master’s degree qualifying them as an APRN with at least 1 specialty — earned a median salary of $110,930 per year, or $53.33 per hour.”

While this requires additional education and can require hefty payments or student loans, adding a specialty could add more career satisfaction, expertise and long-term financial benefits.

To help you in your search, these are the specialties that we currently see as the highest paying:


Nurse case managers

If you have the ability to coordinate a patient’s care with other specialists, assignments as nurse case managers are widely available and financially lucrative. The exact amount of additional pay you’ll receive varies by location, but you can contact a recruiter to learn more.


Like nurse case managers, your pay rate as a telemetry nurse can vary by location. In addition, your skills may also affect the pay you receive for a given assignment. The more knowledge you have regarding necessary technical medical equipment, the better your pay rate can be.

Pediatric intensive care nurse

Demand for talented nurses in this role never seems to diminish, so if you possess the skill set to work as a pediatric intensive care nurse, your opportunities are nearly endless.

Operating room nurse

The ability to serve as an operating room nurse can be your key to a better pay rate. In addition, you can bump that rate even higher if you can offer highly sought-after skill sets such as neurologic, cardiac or robotic surgery experience.

Cardiac catheterization laboratory nurse

One of the habitually highest ranked roles in job satisfaction is also one of the most lucrative in travel nursing. If you’re a cardiac catheterization laboratory nurse, there are myriad opportunities for you to continue the work you love for great pay.

Meeting the demand for nurses

Nursing is an excellent career field to enter right now. states that “According to the [BLS], registered nurse employment is projected to grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average. In fact, the BLS ranks registered nurses as the occupation with the third highest projected numeric change in employment during this period, with an estimated 438,100 jobs opening.”

This demand means wages are projected to increase in the next few years, and traveling allows you to help fill those needs while leading a fulfilling and rewarding career.


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