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By February 20, 2015 2 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: What’s a fair hourly pay rate for Travel Nursing?

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Ask a Travel Nurse: What’s a fair hourly pay rate for Travel Nursing?

Ask a Travel Nurse Question:

What’s a fair hourly pay rate for Travel Nursing? For example, I used to work for $38 per hour. Now I want to travel, and an agency quoted me $20 per hour for Miami. Am I getting ripped off with that pay rate?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

If you used to work for $38 per hour and are then going to get paid $20 per hour for the exact same job, then yes, you are getting ripped off. However, a Travel Nursing assignment is likely not the same as the position in which you were making $38 per hour.

A Travel Nurse assignment simply cannot be compared to a staff position. If money is your motivation, I discourage travel. You can make more money in a staff position and picking up extra shifts of OT or working registry.

I cannot advise you on the rate you were quoted because there are a ton of things that go into the assessment of travel contract. Was this rate quoted with the assumption of participation in their tax advantage program? Do you actually qualify to be in their tax program (have a “tax home”)? Were you taking their housing or a stipend? Was that stipend included in the hourly quote? Were there any license reimbursements? Travel reimbursements? And possibly the most important question, “Is it worth it to you, if you had to take a pay cut, to work in Miami for 13 weeks?”

I believe that a recent problem in the world of travel is that many nurses who are just getting started, simply call a travel company and ask what they pay, before they truly underst and the world of travel and the components of a Travel Nursing contract. I do underst and that it can be hard to know where to get started, but there are a few places these days for you to get a better underst and ing of Travel Nursing (as opposed to 20 years ago when I got started).

I do not know where you are starting as far as a knowledge base on travel nursing, but if you are starting from scratch, I might recommend my book, the Travel Nurse’s Bible.

I’ve been working on a rewrite for some time now, but currently have a 3-year-old that keeps me quite busy. But, with all the requests for the book, I decided to make the 2009 edition available online in the Amazon Kindle store.

While it is a few years old, during the reworking of the book, I was surprised to see how much of the book, has stood the test of time. Plus, I’ve made it available for less than the price of your next meal at McDonalds. It’s a great place to start even if you do have a little knowledge about the travel industry.

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free programs or apps to read it from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can find it here.

Some great websites to find out more about travel, other than here at, are,, and the Delphi forum for traveling professionals (go to, look for the box on the right that says “Explore existing forums”, type in “Travel Nursing” and the top result is a group called Travel Nurses and Therapists).

Pan Travelers is also another good site with a forum. They have a free section and also a portion where there is a charge to access information.

Healthcare Traveler Magazine is presently entirely online, but can be found at where you can read current or back issues (I’ve written articles for them as well as a monthly column that you can find in past issues). You can also join Healthcare Travelbook (, which is a sort of Facebook style place for Travelers, which also has a forum.

Research the industry a bit more and I think you’ll find that $20 per hour, depending upon location and many other factors like those mentioned above, is not an off-base quote for a Travel Nursing assignment. You just need a better underst and ing of why that is and all the factors involved.

If you do decide to take the plunge, let me know and  I can offer you some help in getting set up with some great people in the industry that I use for my travels.

I hope this helps.


About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

2 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: What’s a fair hourly pay rate for Travel Nursing?"

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  1. mn says:

    RE: pay and tax advantage plans. I have a friend that works for IRS/attorney that goes after tax cheats. I let him review a contract. He was horrified, said do not do this or I will get in trouble. Low hrly rate w/ most pay untaxed reimbursements for travel. He said not only does it appear I am being cheated, but if audited I will be screwed. And yes, he has prosecuted nurses. And it is easier to go after middleclass cause they don’t fight, can’t afford to fight, and will just pay.

  2. David says:

    Show any legal professional a copy of the contracts under which we work and they would have a cow. Show any tax specialist the “tax advantage programs” and they too, would likely fear for our well-being.

    However, contracts and tax advantage programs are two tools used in our profession, that the travel nurse MUST understand.

    Not all contracts are created equal and not all tax programs are the same. Some companies do not spend the time necessary to understand the implications for travel nurses and even the implications it could have for the travel company as a whole, should the IRS start looking into things.

    However, there are companies that have been doing this a long time and are well within the allowances given by the IRS.

    Bottom line, if you are not sure, have someone look into it. Joseph Smith and the team at answer questions regarding taxes and the traveling healthcare professional. He also has a wonderful FAQ page on his site that should be required reading for any traveler.


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