Travel nurse complete career guide

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Becoming a travel nurse

Travel nurses journey to healthcare facilities such as hospitals or clinics on assignment, filling short-term nursing employment gaps on a temporary basis. They can travel within the U.S. or internationally. These nurses may receive assignments to help in locations suffering from disease, or to fill gaps due to nursing shortages.

To be successful as a travel nurse, sensitivity to different cultures is very important and nurses should approach all patients respectfully and empathetically. Other important personality traits include emotional intelligence, critical thinking, flexibility and strong communication skills. Finally, it is necessary to have a love of travel and a sense of adventure to pursue this career path.

Education requirements to become a travel nurse

It takes between 2 and 5 years to become a travel nurse. You can choose between an associate or bachelor’s degree. Below are the details about each course of study.

Associate degree in nursing (ADN)

An associate degree is the minimum academic requirement to be a registered nurse (RN) and start working as a travel nurse. ADN degrees are offered at community colleges and some universities and include on-site clinical training. Upon earning this 2-year degree, you will be prepared to assist physicians, dress wounds, run diagnostic tests, review treatment plans and provide patients information on self-care.

Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)

A BSN is preferred by employers. This 4-year degree path combines classes in nursing education with clinical experience guided by a practicing nurse. There are also options for accelerated, 15-month bachelor’s degrees in nursing science. A bachelor’s degree requires in-person clinical rotations at a hospital affiliated with your chosen nursing school.


After getting an associate or bachelor’s degree, you must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) in person or online. Upon completion, you will be a registered nurse. Those interested in travel nursing must then find a local nursing position and work for at least a year before applying for travel assignments. To find travel nurse assignments, connect with a travel nurse agency, such as American Traveler, Host Healthcare or Aya Healthcare.

How much do travel nurses earn?

Travel nurses earn an average of $37.16 per hour. While these nurses receive competitive pay, there are many other reasons to choose this path. Along with the benefits of seeing the world and helping those in need, travel nurses also have flexible schedules that are customized based on the assignments they choose. It is common for travel nurses to work a 3-month assignment and then take a break to travel on their own before beginning another assignment.

Why pursue a career in travel nursing?

There are many professional benefits to travel nursing. Compared to traditional nursing roles, travel nurses are less likely to burnout thanks to the frequent change in scenery and ability to take breaks between assignments. Travel nurses do not have to join hospital committees or get additional certifications. The pay for a typical assignment is usually higher than local salaries and the majority of your pay is also tax-free due when your assignment is more than 50 miles from home.

Professional growth as a travel nurse comes from the variety of experiences these professionals get as part of their job. Working at different facilities, from top research and teaching hospitals to rural clinics, enables travel nurses build a broad array of skills. While there are not opportunities for promotion as a travel nurse, there is a chance for career development with each new assignment and a permanent position if desired.

Those who may not be suited for this career include new parents, single parents, those with limited mobility or those who are not comfortable with frequent travel. Individuals with familial obligations may wish to pursue a career in part-time or per diem nursing at one location to avoid uprooting their family. Per diem nursing may also be a good option for those who are interested in a flexible schedule.

There are other careers that include travel in the field of healthcare. Listed below are some examples.

  • Traveling medical scribe
  • Physical or occupational therapist
  • Medical sales representative
  • Pharmaceutical sales representative
  • Military health career?
  • Healthcare consultant
  • Healthcare writer

One of the main reasons nurses go into the field is to help others. Combined with the benefits of flexibility and travel, travel nursing is a unique career choice. If you are looking for a job that is outside the box and provides an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, travel nursing may be for you.

American Traveler

American Traveler is one of the most trusted resources to find travel nursing opportunities around the world. You simply enter the profession, specialty and state that you wish to work in, and available opportunities will be listed.

Aya Healthcare

Aya Healthcare is another trusted resource for travel nursing opportunities that provides travel nursing opportunities. This is America’s largest travel nursing agency and has high rankings among travel nurses. 

National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX)

The main licensing body for nurses in the U.S. The website includes exam information and registration.