Hospitals, outpatient centers and hospital care agencies rely on traveling nurses to care for patients locally and nationally. Traveling nurses may specialize in medical surgery, emergency procedures and rehabilitation, or several other specialties. Most work eight to 13 weeks at one location before moving to another venue, according to TravelNursing.org. If you want to work as a traveling nurse, you need at least an associate's degree in nursing. In return, you can earn salaries averaging between $65,000 and $75,000 annually.
Education, Experience and Qualifications
The minimum qualifications for a traveling nurse are an associate's degree in nursing and 18 or more months of experience in nursing. Experience is usually contingent on the type of nursing work you do, and your title. If you work in rehab or medical surgery, for example, you may need two years of experience, according to NurseZone.org. As a licensed practical nurse or LPN, you may need up to six years of experience to become a traveling nurse in medical surgery or rehab. Other essential qualifications are flexibility, patience, emotional stability, physical stamina, and organizational, interpersonal and critical-thinking skills.
Pay and Benefits
Traveling nurses usually earn about 15 percent more, on average, than their more stationary counterparts, according to NurseZone.com. A traveling nurse working a 48-hour shift, on average, earned an annual salary of $75,000 in 2012, according to TravelNursing.org. This equates to about $30.04 per hour. The job site Indeed reported an annual salary of $66,000 for traveling nurses as of 2013, or $31.73 per hour, based on 40-hour workweeks. As a traveling nurse, you will typically receive medical, dental and vision insurance, according to TravelNursing.org. You will also receive matching bonuses for your retirement benefits, meaning employers will match six percent, for example, if that's the percentage you have deducted from your paychecks. Other benefits include flexible hours, paid housing and meals and compensation for overtime.
Salary by Region
In 2013, average salaries for traveling nurses varied the most within the West region, according to Indeed, where they earned the highest salaries of $71,000 in California and lowest of $44,000 in Hawaii. Those in the Northeast made $57,000 to $80,000 per year in Maine and New York, respectively. If you work as a traveling nurse in Louisiana or Washington, D.C., you'd earn $56,000 or $78,000, respectively, which represented the lowest and highest salaries in the South region. In the Midwest, you'd make the most in Illinois and least in South Dakota -- $72,000 or $49,000, respectively.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 26 percent increase in jobs for nurses, including traveling nurses, through 2020, which is faster than the 14 percent national hiring rate for all occupations. An aging population among seniors and baby-boomers, who traditionally have more medical needs, may increase jobs for traveling nurses. You may find more available jobs at outpatient centers as more procedures are done in outpatient centers because of modern technology and cost-conscious insurance agencies.