travel nursing requirements

How to Become a Travel Nurse in 4 Steps

Suppose you are interested in helping people, looking for a career in an in-demand field with high job security and growth opportunities, and enjoy traveling. In that case, you may be the perfect candidate for a career in travel nursing.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more than 200,000 new registered nursing positions will become available yearly between 2021 and 2031. Compared to other occupations, this means a faster-than-average growth rate for RNs. Travel nurses, who are a type of registered nurse, will reap the benefits of increasing job stability and opportunities in the field. Now is the time to dive in.

Below, we explore what a travel nurse is and how to become one in just four steps.

What is a Travel Nurse?

A travel nurse is a skilled, qualified, and licensed registered nurse (RN), who accepts a temporary assignment at a hospital in a different geographical location than where they live.

Travel nurses are RNs from various clinical backgrounds and work for independent travel nurse staffing agencies. These agencies temporarily assign travel nurses to different care areas to fill short-term employment gaps. Amidst a current nursing shortage, travel nurses are in especially high demand right now.

Travel nurses can find work in the United States and international positions. The adventure and excitement of new opportunities (plus the higher-than-average pay) lead many RNs to explore a career as a travel nurse.

What Does a Travel Nurse Do?

Travel nurses have a variety of responsibilities, duties, and specific tasks depending on their specialty and the location they are working in.

For example, domestic travel nurses work within the U.S. for eight to thirteen weeks. On the other hand, international travel nurses work outside the U.S. on assignments ranging from one to two years, and nurses must wait for document processing before traveling.

The general responsibilities of travel nurses include the following:

  • Assessing, diagnosing, planning, implementing, and evaluating care for patients in a variety of healthcare settings
  • Administering medications and fluids, assisting with activities of daily living and patient mobility
  • Reviewing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and imaging
  • Monitoring and providing oversight in all aspects of patient care
  • Collaborating with physicians in developing a plan of care
  • Providing resources for patients and referring them as necessary
  • Educating patients and families in all areas of healthcare maintenance and prevention
  • Working on assignments anywhere from eight to thirteen weeks (on average) in the U.S., one to two years if outside the U.S.
  • Learning various patient care systems/documentation

How Much Does a Travel Nurse Make?

Travel nurses are compensated at a higher-than-average level in the nursing field because they fill understaffed and needed positions. They also receive benefits such as healthcare and additions to their 401ks.

According to Zippia, traveling nurses make an average of $83,961 annually or $40.37 per hour in the United States. However, location does make an impact on how much a traveling nurse earns.

Traveling nurses make the most in Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Michigan. Furthermore, it is common for vacation destinations to pay lower because of the competitiveness of those job openings and the high number of nurses applying.

How Do I Become a Travel Nurse?

1. Be flexible and eager for new experiences.

Travel nurses regularly pack up and move themselves or their families to new locations, often leaving other family and friends behind. Therefore, you want to ensure your family and friends support this lifestyle.

Additionally, travel nurses who excel in their role generally enjoy the following:

  • Experiencing new cities, towns, and organizations
  • The freedom to choose when, where, and how long they will work
  • The flexibility in creating their schedule, benefits packages, and income
  • Learning new and challenging organizational systems and workflows

2. Pursue a Nursing Degree.

Those interested becoming a travel nurse need to first pursue a nursing degree through a two or four-year university.

Obtaining an associate degree in Nursing (ADN) is the standard requirement for aspiring RNs today, but a bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN) is becoming more common. Travel nursing candidates should be aware that many healthcare facilities often only hire candidates with a BSN or higher, and their chances at a higher salary will be better with a BSN.

3. Pass All Licensing Exams.

Upon completing at least an associate or bachelor’s degree, travel nurse candidates must pass all necessary exams, such as the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN©), which is required for licensure.

4. Fulfill Agency Requirements or Other Necessary Certifications.

Many agencies require travel nurses to have a minimum of one year of hands-on bedside care or experience in nursing before being able to work as a travel nurse.

International nurses should also speak the language of the country they want to practice in, as communication is integral to effective healthcare delivery. Travel nurse candidates should research agencies and understand their exact requirements.

Aside from the NCLEX-RN, no additional exams are required for travel nursing. Depending on the specialty, however, additional certifications may be required.

Some certifications for traveling RNs might include:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)
  • Trauma Nurse Core Course (TNCC) certification

A career as a travel nurse is exciting, rewarding, and financially lucrative. You can travel and see parts of the country or world you never have, help people live better and healthier lives, and make a good living.

If you are interested in pursuing a career that leads to travel nursing, it starts with a reputable nursing program like ours at Goodwin University. We have a variety of flexible nursing degree programs that work with all lifestyles.

Financial aid is available, and our comprehensive support services will get you through college and into your exciting career. Get on your way to becoming a travel nurse today!