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By July 18, 2012 2 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: What’s the ‘Norm’ Salary for a Travel Nurse?


travel nurse salaryAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

I am to embark upon my first travel assignment in Aug. The salary seems quite low to me, and I was wondering if it is the norm. The actual salary is $22.30 per hour with tax free per diem of $35/day.

They do pay for housing, but since I have a mortgage I’m not saving any money there. Between the salary, loss of PTO, and the cost of benefits this is a huge financial loss for me. Is this the norm, or should I have expected more?


Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

I can’t really give a lot of advice without knowing the specific situation, but I’ll assume a few things and see if this answers your questions.

Salary differs GREATLY depending on the area of the country and the need in the immediate area. Most times I have checked, Texas is a notoriously low paying state while Northern California can boast rates up into the $40/hr range. It also depends on your specialty. Many of the OB or NICU positions pay well, followed closely by critical care. So you see, there actually is no “norm” when it comes to salary.

An additional thing you mentioned is the tax free per diem. So while you mentioned $22.30, is that the final rate once they factor in the per diem, or the base rate?You will have to ask your recruiter to be sure.

The rate of $22.30 after you have factored in the per diem does sound a bit low, but then again, if you told me it was for a tele position in Texas, I would have less of a hard time accepting it as a final rate.

I have also traveled mostly while carrying a mortgage. On some assignments I will make money, some I break even, and some (Hawaii comes to mind), I will lose money. You have to balance the ability to travel with the ability to meet your financial obligations. If you are just breaking even, but get to spend the winter in San Diego (versus Columbus, Ohio), then it might still be worth it.

Check with your recruiter and see if they can give you any more insight as to what you will be looking at for a final hourly rate. On your next assignment, if you are open to locations, you can even tell your recruiter to find you assignments that do not pay less than “x” amount per hour or come with a completion bonus.


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 the ‘Norm’ Salary for a Travel Nurse?"

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  1. jackie olman


    I hope you can help, I have read somewhere about a test that some facilities are requiring prior to starting but after arriving at the destination. Do you know about this?

  2. Colleen Comer Hansen


    Yes I beleive it is PBDS and it tests your critical thinking abilities/skill in given vingettes. If you google PBDS, they have several descriptions and generalized scenes you can practice with. I have not taken the test and heard both positive and negative comments. Some hospitals use this testing on your fist day of orientation. Ask your recrutier if the facility uses the testing or not. Research it first. I avoid facilities that use this test, but that is my personal choice.
    This test is used “weed” out travelers thus if one fails, your contract is ended/cancelled immediately, there is no remediation, which is not horrible if the destination is driven, but flying can be costly as travel agencies will not reimburse those costs to go home.

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