The Three Biggest Factors Affecting Travel Nurse Pay

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, November 18, 2021


Many nurses turn to travel nursing because of the pay scale opportunities it offers. While it’s true travel nurses can earn significantly more than their stationary counterparts, earning potential is contingent on a few key contributing factors. Like any job, travel nurses are compensated according to their skills and schedule availability. For a travel nurse, compensation is determined by qualifications, location, and shift.

Travel nursing pay isn’t the same across the board

A lot of travel nurses join the field because of its lucrative opportunities, but it’s important to remember that while travel nursing pay is high, it’s also highly variable. Three main factors play a part in determining your contracted pay rate, but other factors will influence your stipend and benefits. All the variables can be complicated for new travelers to understand.


The three major things affecting your travel nursing contract rate are:

  1. Qualifications. Nursing qualifications and specialties can make a substantial difference in your pay rate. In-demand specialties typically have higher-paying opportunities because facilities need more nursing expertise in those fields. The amount of experience you have, in general, also makes a difference. As you move up the ladder and earn more credentials, you’ll likely see your pay rise.
  2. Assignment locations. The location of your assignment will also influence your contracted rate. Urban areas and larger cities with a higher cost of living typically pay higher wages. Taking an assignment in a crisis location often comes with higher pay. When disasters strike, hospitals are willing to pay more for extra help.
  3. Shift availability. The shifts you’re willing to work can affect how much you’re offered by a given facility. Hospitals often incentivize nurses to work less-popular shifts. Traditionally, shifts considered less desirable — such as night shifts — come with a pay bump.

These three factors work together to influence how much pay you’re offered for each contract. A highly qualified nurse going to a crisis area — who’s also willing to work the night shift — will probably earn more than a newer nurse with basic credentials who only works first shift in a rural area.

Now is a great time for travel nursing pay

A combination of nursing shortages and the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed travel nursing pay rates even higher over the past year. Travel nursing is more lucrative than ever, so nurses interested in the field would do well to start their journey soon. If you’re eager to take on the additional challenges, there are ample opportunities available.

Review all the details of an assignment before accepting the position. Learn everything you can about the pay opportunities, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify exactly what you’ll make if you accept. Your Health Providers Choice recruiter is always willing to go through contracts with you to ensure you’re comfortable with the pay scale for your next assignment. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800 with questions.

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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.