A Travel Nurse’s Guide to Signing Bonuses

Written by Rose Torrento on Monday, February 12, 2024 Posted in On the Job


There’s a lot to love about travel nursing, including the potential for lucrative pay and perks. One of the biggest incentives for travel nurses is the prospect of a signing bonus. While these bonuses can be a valuable addition to your income, understanding the ins and outs of signing bonuses is important to ensure you make informed decisions about the types of contracts you accept and your income expectations.

Here’s what every travel nurse needs to know about sign-on bonuses, from what they are to how you can earn them, along with other key considerations.

Types of sign-on bonuses

While you may hear terms like “standard sign-on bonus,” travel nursing bonuses can come in many different forms. The most common types of signing bonuses are:

  • Lump-sum bonus: Rare but highly sought after, these bonuses offer a one-time payment for accepting a contract. Nurses with specialized skills or extensive experience are often the recipients of higher lump-sum bonuses.
  • Tiered bonus: This type of bonus involves payments made in increments, usually based on meeting certain milestones or service duration. For instance, you might get part of the bonus after accepting the contract, with the rest paid incrementally every few weeks.
  • Completion bonus: While not technically a “signing” bonus, this incentive is frequently awarded upon the completion of a contract or after a specified period of service. Simply accepting the contract isn’t enough; you’ll need to see it through to the end.

Terms and conditions

No matter what type of sign-on incentive a contract offers, there are bound to be terms and conditions attached to it. Before you jump at a contract because of a lucrative signing bonus, be sure you know what you’re signing up for. Common stipulations include:

  • Duration: Most bonuses require you to stick around for a certain time. Leaving early might mean saying goodbye to any extra cash.
  • Taxes: Depending on how the bonus is paid, it’s likely considered taxable income. For instance, lump-sum bonuses are generally flat-taxed at 25%.
  • Eligibility: There’s usually a checklist of criteria to receive the full bonus, reflecting how well you do or specific milestones you must meet, such as weekly average hours.

Tips for navigating signing bonuses

Always read the fine print on any contract you sign. If you’re new to travel nursing or aren’t familiar with signing bonuses, a few insider tips can help.

  • Choose the right agency. Your agency is your advocate when it comes to contracts. Don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter about signing bonuses and their requirements.
  • Check your qualifications. Ensure your licenses and certifications are up to date. The last thing you want is to accept a contract with a bonus you’re not eligible for.
  • Negotiate like a pro. Don’t just nod and sign the contract. Ask questions, understand the details, and don’t be shy to negotiate. Remember, you’re in demand.
  • Know what you’re signing up for. Read the stipulations attached to the signing bonus like a detective. Understand what you’re saying yes to, from the daily duties to the duration.

Signing bonuses can be a valuable way to enhance your income as a travel nurse, but it’s critical to discern the type, term, and potential implications of each bonus offered. The more you know about how to qualify for these bonuses, the easier it will be to keep them top of mind — both when selecting contracts and while working toward them on assignments.

It’s not uncommon for travel nurses to have questions about sign-on bonuses. If you’re considering an assignment with a signing bonus, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Health Providers Choice recruiter for more details. They can help you navigate the criteria so you can make the most of your next assignment. Contact us online or call 888-299-9800 to learn more.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.