high pay travel nursing jobs
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How to Find High Pay Travel Nursing Jobs

Salaries for travel nursing jobs vary greatly based on location, role, experience, and other factors individual facilities might throw in the mix. However, life just keeps getting more expensive. Rising inflation rates and the looming possibility of a recession drive home the importance of earning the highest salary possible. If your current travel salary doesn’t cover everything you’d like, consider these tips for finding high pay travel nursing jobs to help put more money in the bank.

Learn Standard Rates of Pay

Before you can find high pay travel nursing jobs, it helps to know the standard rates for various nursing roles. Increased pay in one specialty might not be considered high in another. A great way to be proactive is to investigate travel nurse salaries to find those higher-paying travel roles.

Unlike staff nursing jobs where pay transparency isn’t always the norm, travel nurses know what a travel gig pays before taking the assignment. However, that doesn’t mean the pay rate for a travel assignment reflects a fair amount based on current standards. Accessing industry standards is one sure way to know whether a travel job contract offers a salary on an average, below average or higher-than-average pay scale.

The Vivian Salary Tool allows travel and staff healthcare professionals to compare pay rates at facilities across the nation. You can use it to learn the average and highest salaries for travel nurse contracts in specific locations. It also helps you determine which RN specialties pay more than others. This list tends to be similar in travel and staff positions.

Salary information is also essential if you’re considering switching nursing roles to explore new avenues that typically offer higher salaries. Utilizing the salary tool also arms you with the details you need to negotiate a better travel contract pay rate or help you determine whether an offer includes a fair salary. Never accept a job that pays below industry standards if your goal is finding high-pay travel nursing jobs.

Compare Travel Nursing Location

Look for job postings in locations with traditionally higher travel nursing pay. California tends to lead the market for the highest-paying travel nursing jobs. However, the cost of living in the Golden State can take a massive bite out of your paycheck, leaving you with much less than anticipated.

Vivian has dedicated location pages that let you explore top cities for travel contracts without ever leaving home. City posts offer cost of living details, a brief travel guide, and the current number of travel jobs available with individual job postings. As a travel nurse, you can choose anywhere to go as long as there are job openings and you hold the appropriate nursing license for the state. A good travel nurse agency should help you compare locations and reach your higher salary goal.

Weigh the Cost-of-Living Impact

Cost of living, including housing costs and local tax rates, can really eat into your paycheck, especially if you’re taking a fairly lengthy travel contract. Many areas have inflated wages simply to offset their higher cost of living, and you take home the same amount of money in the end. To truly find high pay travel nursing jobs, look at how much it costs to live in a given state.

In the first quarter of 2022, Hawaii, New York and California had the highest costs of living nationwide. Conversely, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Kansas had the lowest. However, just because a state has a lower cost of living doesn’t mean you’ll end up with more money in your pocket. You must weigh the average pay of current nursing positions compared to the costs of living in each state to see the big picture.

Choosing states in the middle of the pack may allow you to take home more of your wages. Idaho, Colorado, Florida and Virginia typically have costs of living indexes closest to the national average. However, you must still look at average salaries in these states to see if they strike an ideal balance of wages versus COL. Get ready to do some math!

The cost-of-living index measures the prices of things like groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous goods. All the things necessary to maintain a typical lifestyle in a given place. However, housing is nearly always the biggest driver of high overall living costs.

Figuring the cost of living helps determine how affordable it is to live in a specific state or city. Utilize a cost-of-living calculator to compare the COLs between two cities. Popular COL calculator options include those provided by:

It doesn’t hurt to check COLs on several calculators to compare results. Each organization may use different formulas to arrive at its costs of living.

Compare Shifts, OT and Other Factors

When comparing travel nurse jobs, evaluate the healthcare travel contract and compare important pay details. Start with the shift breakdown, then look at other pay-related factors to find higher-paying positions.

In theory, contracts with more shifts or more hours per shift pay more than those with fewer hours. However, this isn’t always the case. You may find two relatively identical travel jobs with comparable payouts, but one may require four 12-hour shifts while the other only requires three. Obviously, you want the one that pays the same for working fewer hours. Likewise, if two contracts pay nearly the same, but one is for 8 weeks and the other is for 13, common sense says to take the 8-week contract.

While comparing shifts, don’t forget to check the possibility for overtime, how much OT pays, and whether it’s volunteer OT that’s paid a separate rate. OT rates get complicated but are often negotiable. Watch out for blended bill rates, which blends regular hourly rates with OT hourly rates to create one flat rate.

When working a contract with blended bill rates, you won’t earn any more for overtime hours than you would regular hours. Although you’re still earning more money working the additional hours, you’re not making as much as you would if you had a separate OT bill rate.

Don’t mix up extra hours and OT hours. Extra hours are any hours worked over the number of hours stipulated in your travel contract and often pay as much or more than OT hours. You can also negotiate a higher rate for these hours.

These are just some of the travel salary issues you must be aware of if you want to find high pay travel nursing jobs. Getting the highest paying gigs may come down to your negotiating skills. Negotiations are another great reason to find a good travel nurse agent who goes to bat for you.

Explore New Career Paths

Making yourself more in demand through specialized training and education can be another way to find high pay travel nursing jobs. Going back to school, getting additional training, and earning professional certifications can all open new career pathways that could lead to higher paying staff and travel nursing jobs. Advanced degrees like an MSN or DNP, advanced practice roles like a Board Certified Adult NP or CNS, and professional certifications in specialized fields, such as a CCRN or PCCN, potentially lead to new opportunities and increased salary potential.

Learning which specialties and job skills pay the most better equips you to gain or refine the skills needed to find and land high pay travel nursing jobs. As you gain valuable skills, highlight them on your resume and/or with your travel nursing recruiter, so potential employers know what you bring to the table.

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract positions.

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