Benefits of travel nursing can be endless, but a major discussed topic in the travel nursing industry is pay. In addition to the benefits of traveling the country, your salary as a travel nurse will likely be higher than that of your full-time peers who are in permanent positions. It’s difficult to give a concrete number for the average travel nurse salary, as pay varies by location and specialty. The pay structure is also different from that of a permanent nursing position. Here, our team of experienced recruiters breaks down the basics of travel nurse salaries.
Your hourly wage as a travel nurse, sometimes referred to as your “base pay,” will most likely be on the average-to-low side (but don’t fret just yet). Your base pay will largely depend on the region you’re working in; salaries vary greatly by location. The reason that your base pay will be low is that the rest of your salary is shifted into stipends, which aren’t taxed if you’re traveling away from home. Oftentimes, a bonus is also offered upon completion of a contract. These bonuses are taxable. If you’re taking several contracts per year, these bonuses add up.
Your staffing agency will likely provide several types of stipends, which are tax-free. This enables you to keep more of what you make, resulting in a higher net salary. Common stipends include housing, travel, food, and sometimes “incidentals” stipends. Many agencies provide free housing for travel nurses. Travel nurses also receive medical, dental, and vision benefits from their staffing agency. Many agencies also match retirement fund contributions.
In order to qualify for tax benefits as a travel nurse, you’ll need to keep your “tax home.” This is usually the home that travel nurses leave behind to travel—your permanent address. If free housing for your travel assignment isn’t provided by the agency, a housing stipend will be provided. If you’re able to find housing that costs less than the stipend, you can pocket the difference.
Aside from the adventures of traveling and breaking the monotony and possible burnout of a permanent position, travel nursing can supercharge your salary. You’ll likely be making more than your full-time, permanent nursing peers, and have a great time while doing it!