By October 5, 2012 1 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Is my Travel RN salary offer fair, or should I keep looking?


travel nurse salaryAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

David, thank-you for taking time to answer my question.

I live in Texas and am looking at a travel position also in Texas. I work in a small OB dept as a nursery nurse, with experience in NICU.

I’m looking at a position in San Antonio in a 16 bed NICU. I applied with TNAA and the pay package they offered me was $18.00/hr nontaxable income and reinbursements would bring it to 39.47/hr.

I make almost that now and don’t have to jump thru hoops to get it. Is this typical, or do I need to negotiate or keep looking.


Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

To know whether or not you are getting a fair rate depends on too many factors for anyone other than the traveler themselves to assess the situation.

I always encourage nurses to be on file with several agencies. This allows them to determine if the pay rate is in line with what other companies are offering. However, pay rate is only one of many factors that determine assignment worth.

Are the benefits adding to the compensation? Are you getting good healthcare? Are you offered a 401K? Are they reimbursing for your license? Do you get free CEU’s? All of these may be factors for you depending on your situation.

Another thing I note is that you mention that your rate will be in line with what you make now. That begs the question, why are you traveling and what is your motivation for taking this assignment? If it is to make money, then yes, you might have to negotiate a higher rate or explore other companies. But if you are traveling to a location for the adventure, then it’s rather easy. All you have to ask yourself is, “Are they paying me a fair rate, that enables me to pay my bills, while allowing me to travel the country?”

This is a question of perspective. When I travel to Hawaii, is it worth it to me to make $5-$10 less an hour? To sit on a beach in Maui versus shoveling snow all winter long in Ohio, the answer is an emphatic “YES!!”  If I am behind on bills and the assignment would hurt me too much financially, the answer may be, “no”.

To go further in your assessment of the assignment, if you are just looking at trading one location (nothing special) for another location (nothing special), then I’m not sure I would even consider a travel assignment. If you are utilizing a tax advantage program (which I infer you are), then earning a lower rate over a long period of time can affect a few things. This is taken from Joseph Smith’s website, He is an enrolled agent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and a respected “tax guy” in the travel community:

While most travelers like to have a low hourly rate to avoid income taxes, they sometimes forget the risk factors:

– – Financial institutions will usually not take per diems into account as income for qualifying for loans. Per diems are considered reimbursements, not income.

– – Workers Compensation and Unemployment regulations vary from state to state, but it is usually about 2/3 of your hourly rate. With an artificially low rate, any injury while on assignment could be devastating.

– – If you were to make a career of traveling, then it would ensure that your social security payments would likewise be low. (However this is unlikely as SS is based on your 35 highest income earning years.)

So if this is just another “position”, rather than an opportunity to explore the country, you may have additional factors that will influence your decision.

In the end, it all comes down to how you feel about the assignment. If your take on it is, “I’m not making that much more than I did before”, then how satisfying an experience will it be?

I hope this helps you explore your motivations a bit and helps you come to a decision.


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.

1 Comment on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Is my Travel RN salary offer fair, or should I keep looking?"

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  1. Basil J Brown


    Hey great website! Great to see another male RN making it work in the field of Nursing. I am a Critical Care Nurse of 16.5 years and am going to start traveling in a few weeks. Thanks for some of the information! Basil

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