Travel Medical Surgical Nurse Salary Guide

Medical-surgical nursing, or med-surg for short, is one of the most demanding nursing specialties and requires an extensive skill set and nursing knowledge. Med-surg nurses make up the largest group of practicing nurses. As such, they typically earn a competitive wage but less than registered nurses (RN) working in certain specialties. In this guide, we explore med-surg nursing salaries for staff and travel nurse roles, salaries by location, various factors that
can impact med-surg nursing pay and how med-surg salaries compare to other nursing specialties based on Vivian’s salary data during the last week of 2022.

How to Become a Med-Surg Nurse

To enter the medical-surgical nursing field, you must earn a minimum of an Associate Degree in Nursing from an accredited nursing school. However, many employers now require
RNs to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Graduate nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before applying for their state nursing license. The NCLEX, developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, tests graduate nurses’ competency and is a national exam used for RN licensure in all 50 states.

RN licensure candidates may apply for a single-state license through the Board of Nursing that serves the state where they live or where they plan to practice. However, they must
apply in their home state if they live in a nurse licensure compact state and want a multi-state license.

Average Travel Medical Surgical Nurse Salary

$2,087/week

The average salary for a Travel Medical Surgical Nurse is $2,087 per week. This is 1% lower than the nursing US average of $2,112.

Last updated on April 15, 2024. Based on 63,160 active jobs on Vivian.com in the last 7 days.

Salaries for Travel Medical Surgical Nurse compared to Registered Nurse National Averages

$2,087/week

1% lower than the nursing US average.

$2,112/week

United States

What are the highest paying Employers and Agencies for Travel Medical Surgical Nurse jobs?
Average Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
Seven Healthcare$3,840$3,840
Aptiva Healthcare$3,060$3,060
Excite Health Partners$3,002$3,370
PS Companies$2,887$3,354
FocusPoint Healthcare$2,830$3,146
Consolidated Medical Travel$2,809$3,735
Medninjas$2,808$2,808
Staffing First$2,808$3,756
FlexCare Nursing$2,795$3,502
MedQ GLOBAL STAFFING$2,736$2,996

Last updated on April 15, 2024. Information based on active jobs on Vivian.com.

A Nurse holding a file folder

Travel Medical Surgical Nurse Career Guide

Use our exclusive Career Guides to research the education, qualifications, skills and responsibilities for a variety of healthcare disciplines and specialties employers are hiring now.

Go to the guide
Was this page helpful?

Get alerts about new jobs and salary trends

Be the first to know about new jobs for Med Surg Nurses with the salary that suits you.

Travel Med-Surg Nursing Salary by Location

For those med-surg nurses who travel instead of remaining in one location as part of the staff, the highest-paying locations may differ from those of permanent nurses and can vary from week to week based on demand. Travel nursing pay also differs because travelers may receive a blended rate, meaning some of their earnings is untaxed.

While you should still consider the overall cost of living in the state compared to the weekly salary for a given assignment, living costs don’t always have as much bearing on travel wages. Staffing shortages and immediate needs can drive up pay even in areas with lower living costs, and budget constraints can drive down wages in areas with higher costs. Thus, the areas with the highest-paying travel nursing roles may sometimes surprise you.

Featured Blog Posts

Open article How to Find Free CEUs for Nurses
Free CEUs for Nurses
How to Find Free CEUs for Nurses
Keep up with your continuing education requirements and save money!
Open article Quarterly Travel RN Salary Trends Recap: Jan-March 2024
Quarterly Travel RN Salary Trends - Q1
Quarterly Travel RN Salary Trends Recap: Jan-March 2024
Explore pay shifts in every state to anticipate where to go for your next travel nurse job.
Open article Celebrate Nurses Week 2024 with Vivian Health
Nurses Week Image
Celebrate Nurses Week 2024 with Vivian Health
We appreciate the 4.4 million nurses serving the nation. Check this page May 6th – 12th as we say thanks.
See more Blog Posts

Travel Medical Surgical Nurse FAQs

What is a Med-Surg RN?

Med-surg nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for adult patients with a broad range of acute medical issues or who are preparing for or recovering from surgery. These nurses make up the largest group of practicing healthcare professionals in the acute care setting and thrive in a fast-paced environment with a high volume of patients. Many nursing sub-specialties require RNs to have prior med-surg experience.

Prospective med-surg nurses must earn at least an Associate Degree in Nursing from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). They also may opt to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which is preferred by some employers. Nursing school graduates must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. Most hospitals offer an internship program for new RNs wanting to enter the med-surg specialty, which contains a didactic component and a mentorship with an experienced nurse.

How a Medical Surgical RN salary is based

Med-surg nursing salaries are based on numerous factors, including years of experience, certifications, work setting, and geographical location, among others. Education can also impact base salary since RNs can enter the med-surg field with an ADN or a BSN, but there isn’t always a big difference in pay between the two.


Jobs for med-surg nurses are abundant, making it a good role for recent graduates, but experience can play a big part in how an RN’s salary is based. Entry-level nurses can’t expect to earn as much as those that come into a position with several years of experience in the med-surg field already. In a hospital setting, med-surg RNs with sufficient experience to float between all the med-surg units may receive a higher base salary. 

Earning relevant certifications also plays a part in how a med-surg RNs salary is based. Basic Life Support certification is required. Although not always required, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification can increase a med-surg nurse’s merit as a job candidate and may factor into salary. If a med-surg nurse works in a hospital emergency room or family practice where patients of all ages are seen, Pediatric Advanced Life Support certification may also be beneficial. Professional certification relating directly to med-surg nursing isn’t usually required, but salaries may fluctuate based on these certifications. 


Salaries for med-surg nursing jobs are also based on location, like other nursing professions. Med-surg nurses can usually expect to earn more in hospital settings and major metropolitan centers. Some states have above-average pay rates, especially California. It’s always among the highest paying locations, but the state also has one of the highest costs of living nationwide.

How to increase your Med-Surg RN salary

Compared to many other nursing specialties, med-surg salaries are usually lower, but there are ways med-surg RNs can increase their salaries. Experience level based on years of service is impossible to immediately change, but additional education and professional certifications can be earned in relatively short periods.


Med-surg nurses who currently have an ADN can potentially earn a pay bump if they pursue a BSN after they’re hired. RN-to-BSN programs allow nurses to continue their education while still working and finish their degree quicker. Some hospitals even offer tuition reimbursement to help cover the cost.


However, the best way for med-surg nurses to increase their salary is to earn professional certification. The average salaries of certified med-surg nurses are generally higher than those without certifications.


The Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board offers the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN) credential to currently licensed RNs who’ve practiced in the med-surg setting for two years and accrued 2,000 hours of practice within the past three years. Earning the CMSRN designation opens the door for a possible pay raise and most hospitals reimburse nurses for the exam fee.


The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Medical-Surgical Nursing board certification examination. RNs can sit for the MEDSURG-BC exam after two years of full-time practice as an RN and completion of at least 2,000 clinical practice hours and 30 hours of continuing education in the med-surg specialty within the last three years.  Both credentials are valid for five years before requiring renewal.

What are the most common benefits for a medical surgical travel nurse?

While there are many benefits to working as a travel nurse, the most common benefits included as compensation are housing stipends, meal stipends, and health insurance. Be sure to asses how your benefits are taxed because this can affect your net income. For example, if you qualify as having a permanent tax home, many of these stipends are tax-free, which can mean thousands of dollars in savings.

1. Housing stipend

Housing stipends can be used to cover costs associated with temporary housing like rent, utilities, and relocation expenses. In some cases employers will offer a choice between a stipend or employee housing. If you are confident your housing costs will be lower than the stipend amount, then you may be able to find your own place and save the difference.

On the other hand, housing provided by your employer can make the process of relocating a lot easier. Ask your recruiter how a stipend vs employee housing option is taxed. See our housing tips for travel nursing.

Avg housing stipend value: $584

2. Meal stipend

It’s common for employers to cover living expenses, especially food costs since it is one of the largest expenses when relocating. Employers describe this benefit differently sometimes providing a “per diem” which is a maximum daily allowance for meals and incidental expenses. Others may offer a “stipend”, which is a lump sum paid periodically. It’s important to keep detailed records of your expenses and to verify whether you qualify for tax-free stipends.

Avg housing stipend value: $668

3. Health Insurance

Many travel nurse employers offer health insurance at a reasonable rate, however coverage may only apply throughout the duration of your assignment. You’ll want to understand the exact start/end dates of your coverage before signing an agreement to avoid gaps in coverage.

As an alternative, many travel nurses choose private coverage or elect COBRA in between jobs. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a higher rate of pay by choosing private insurance and opting out of the employer’s insurance option.

What professional certifications can potentially increase my salary as a Medical Surgical RN?

Earning your Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification (MEDSURG-BC), AHNCC - Nurse Coach-Board Certified (NC-BC) or Certified Transcultural Nurse (CTN) often increases your salary potential as a medical surgical nurse or makes you eligible for another position with greater responsibilities, which also might include a bump in wages.

Can having a Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification (MEDSURG-BC) boost my salary as a Medical Surgical RN?

Yes, having a Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification (MEDSURG-BC) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a medical surgical nurse.

Can having a AHNCC - Nurse Coach-Board Certified (NC-BC) boost my salary as a Medical Surgical RN?

Yes, having a AHNCC - Nurse Coach-Board Certified (NC-BC) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a medical surgical nurse.

Can earning a degree improve my salary as a Medical Surgical RN?

Yes, advanced education often opens new career paths that usually lead to higher salaries. Medical surgical nurses may benefit financially from pursuing a Bachelor of Science with Nursing Major (BS) or Bachelor of Professional Studies with a concentration in Nursing (BPS). Medical surgical nurses residing in Australia may benefit financially from pursuing a Bachelor of Health Science (BHSc Nsg).

Where can I learn more about working as a Travel Med Surg?

Take a look at Vivian's Travel Med Surg Career Guide for more information, including required education, responsibilities, pros and cons and more.