Understanding Travel Nursing Pay

Understanding how travel nurses are compensated can be confusing. There’s a lot of information out there about taxes, stipends, and hourly rates; enough to make your head spin. To help you get started, we’ve broken down some of the common factors that may impact a travel nurse’s pay and organization tips for managing your taxes as a traveler. Keep in mind, there are many variables that impact each traveler and each assignment, so when it comes to the specifics, you will need to evaluate your circumstances on an individual basis.

How Travel Nurses Get Paid

Staff nursing compensation is relatively straightforward forward and you may be more familiar with that process. Travel nurses, on the other hand, may receive non-taxable expense reimbursements to help cover housing, meals, and other costs while on their travel assignment. A traveler can also receive travel reimbursements for getting to and from their next assignment. In addition to the composition of the compensation package, other job specific variables can weigh in on the potential value to each assignment.

Cost Considerations

  • Location: States with higher costs of living (like California and New York) and big cities usually offer higher rates for travel nurses.
  • Demand: Rates can also be higher if a facility has a critical need to fill or the destination of the assignment is considered less desirable.
  • Shift: Flexibility is crucial as a travel nurse, especially if you want to fill your bank account. Hospitals usually offer higher rates for less desirable shifts (nights, weekends, etc.).
  • Bonuses: Bonuses are quite common in the field of travel nursing. Some common types include sign-on, completion, retention, and referral bonuses.

Taxes are always complicated, so when you are dealing with travel assignments in multiple states, it can be even more confusing. Being a travel nurse requires you to be meticulous and organized. We always recommend working with a CPA to help you weigh your options and manage the process. Here are some tips to get you started.

Tax Tips

  • Determine Your Tax Home: Duplicating expenses while away on assignment is required to receive a meals and/or lodging allowance. Consult with your CPA to ensure that you have a qualified tax home.
  • Understand Your State Tax Responsibilities: Chances are that you have worked in multiple states throughout the year, each with different tax requirements. Knowing state tax information is part of your filing responsibilities, so make sure you understand how each state works. Some states, like Texas, Florida, and Washington have no state income tax.
  • Save Your Documents: Make sure you keep track of your receipts for all your living expenses like meals, utilities, and other associated costs so you can review these when completing your tax returns (i.e. comparing to amounts received for non-taxable expense reimbursements). You can use apps like Expensify or CamScanner, or go old-school with a shoebox to stay organized. Whatever method you choose, just make sure you’re keeping track!

Travel nursing is an incredibly exciting and rewarding career. We have great resources to learn more about how to become a travel nurse, housing options for travel nurses, and advice from seasoned travelers. If you’re looking for new experiences, check out our career portal for a list of current travel nursing opportunities or contact us to speak to a member of our recruiting team.