Travel Nurse Salary Guide: Earnings, Specialties, and Tips

Embarking on a journey as a Registered Nurse (RN) is not just about healing; it’s about embracing new horizons and fostering your career in extraordinary ways. If you’ve ever considered the thrill of becoming a travel nurse while wondering about the financial rewards, you’ve landed at the crossroads of curiosity and possibility. In this guide, we delve into the intricate tapestry of travel nurse salaries, deciphering the figures, deciphering the influences, and unraveling strategies to wield your earnings like a seasoned traveler navigating uncharted waters. 

The Landscape of Travel Nurse Salaries 

As of May 2023, the average annual salary for travel nurses in the United States stands at $105,021, equivalent to an hourly rate of $50, according to data from ZipRecruiter. This figure is remarkably higher than the overall average salary for registered nurses, which is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. 

However, it’s essential to recognize that travel nurse salaries vary nationwide. At the lower end of the spectrum, some earn around $40,000, while top earners command an impressive $155,500 annually. 

Factors Influencing Travel Nurse Salaries 

Several factors play a pivotal role in determining travel nurse salaries. These factors include: 

  • Nursing Specialty: The specific area of nursing you specialize in can significantly impact your earnings. Here are some examples of travel nurse salaries by specialty: 
    • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs): CRNAs are the highest-paid nursing specialty, with an average annual income of $194,352 or $93 per hour. The top earners in this category can even make up to $311,500. 
    • Operating Room (OR) Nurses: Operating room travel nurses earn an average annual income of $181,460, with the highest earning up to $286,000. 
    • Emergency Room (ER) Nurses: ER travel nurses have an average annual income of $83,503, but the top earners can make as much as $171,500. 
    • Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurses: ICU travel nurses earn an average annual salary of $143,416, with the highest earners potentially reaching $263,500. 
    • Travel Nurse Practitioners (NPs): Travel NPs earn an average of $140,086 per year or $67 per hour, with the highest earners making as much as $243,500. 
    • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Nurses: NICU travel nurses earn an average of approximately $173,017 annually or $83 per hour, ranging from $56,000 to $281,500. 
    • Med-Surg Nurses: Med-Surg travel nurses earn an average annual income of $118,997 or $57.21 per hour, with potential hourly earnings reaching as high as $134.38. 
    • Telemetry Nurses: Telemetry travel nurses earn an average annual income of $124,122 or $60 per hour, with top earners bringing in as much as $174,500. 
  • Location: Where you practice matters. Cities and states with higher living costs tend to offer higher compensation to travel nurses. For instance, working in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle often generates significantly higher earnings than lower-cost-of-living areas. 
  • Full-Time or Part-Time Employment: The number of hours you work each week can influence your salary. Full-time positions generally offer more substantial compensation than part-time roles. 
  • Shifts: The shifts you work, such as day shifts, night shifts, mid-shifts, or weekends, can impact your pay. Nurses working less desirable shifts receive higher hourly rates. 
  • Bonus Income: Travel nurses can earn additional income through bonuses. These include agency bonuses, retention bonuses for referring colleagues, and crisis or strike pay during urgent situations.


The Top-Paying States for Travel Nurses 

  Here are the states where travel nurses can potentially reap higher rewards for their skills and dedication:   

  • New York: Nestled in the vibrant bustle of the city or the serene landscapes upstate, New York offers an average annual salary of $128,277 or $61.67 per hour. 
  • Arizona: With its warm climate and diverse communities, Arizona beckons travel nurses with an average annual income of $109,776 or $52.78 per hour. 
  • Wyoming: The open plains and rugged beauty of Wyoming come with an average annual salary of $109,765 or $52.77 per hour. 
  • Hawaii: The allure of island life accompanies a tempting average annual salary of $109,653 or $52.72 per hour. 
  • Tennessee: From the music scene of Nashville to the scenic beauty, Tennessee offers an average annual income of $107,708 or $51.78 per hour. 
  • Massachusetts: Enriched with history and innovation, Massachusetts boasts an average annual salary of $107,000 or $51.44 per hour. 
  • New Jersey: From its bustling cities to its serene shorelines, New Jersey offers an average annual income of $106,901 or $51.40 per hour. 
  • Washington: The Evergreen State presents an average annual salary of $106,086 or $51.00 per hour, inviting travel nurses to explore its natural wonders. 
  • West Virginia: Known for its Appalachian beauty, West Virginia offers an average annual income of $106,044 or $50.98 per hour. 
  • New Hampshire: The charming landscapes of New Hampshire come with an average annual salary of $105,438 or $50.69 per hour. 


Strategies for Increasing Your Travel Nurse Salary 

Want to boost your earnings as a travel nurse? Here are some effective methods to consider: 

  • Location Flexibility: Opt for assignments in cities or states with higher costs of living to secure a higher rate of compensation. 
  • Leverage Specialties: Explore which ones offer the highest pay through your agency if you have cross-training in multiple nursing specialties. 
  • Per Diem Pay: Check if you qualify for per diem pay, which covers housing, incidentals, and meals during assignments. 
  • Selective Shifts: Be open to working less favorable shifts like nights, mid-shifts, and weekends, often with higher hourly rates. 
  • Bonus Opportunities: Understand your agency’s bonus structure and look for ways to earn agency bonuses, retention bonuses, and crisis or strike pay. 
  • Agency Comparison: If unsatisfied with your current agency’s pay rates, explore other agencies offering more competitive compensation. 
  • Housing Stipends: Some agencies provide a housing stipend and handle housing arrangements. Consider finding your housing to save money. 


As a travel nurse, various factors may influence your salary potential, including your nursing specialty, location, shifts, and bonuses. By strategically navigating these factors and making informed choices, you can earn a competitive salary and enjoy the unique experience of practicing nursing while exploring different parts of the country. Remember that salary figures can vary over time and across various sources, so it’s advisable to gather information from multiple reputable sources and stay up-to-date with industry trends.