How to Become a Travel Nurse: 4 Requirements & First Class Benefits for 2024

Are you a nurse looking to add excitement, flexibility, and higher pay to your career? Becoming a travel nurse might be the perfect opportunity for you!

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the steps on how to become a travel nurse and explore the benefits and challenges of this rewarding profession.

We’ll cover everything from understanding the role of a travel nurse, the education and licensing requirements, gaining experience and certifications, finding the right travel nursing agency, preparing for your first assignment, and maintaining your nursing license and continuing education.

Let’s begin!

How to Become a Travel Nurse

Key Takeaways

  • Travel nursing is a rewarding career with great financial and professional benefits, but requires adaptability & strong communication skills.

  • To become a travel nurse you need an ADN, BSN, or MSN degree, pass the NCLEX-RN exam & meet state licensing requirements.

  • Get hands-on experience at the bedside plus certifications like BLS, ACLS, and PALS (for pediatrics) to secure your dream job!

Understanding the Role of a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse is a registered nurse who works with independent staffing agencies to fill temporary positions in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. This unique career path offers nurses the flexibility to explore new locations and gain diverse experiences while providing essential healthcare services.

The demand for travel nurses is on the rise, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% increase in RN employment from 2022-2032 due to an aging population and retiring nurses. As a result, travel nursing jobs are becoming more popular and accessible for those interested in this exciting profession.

Travel nursing is not without its challenges, though. Nurses must be adaptable, possess a strong nursing foundation, and have excellent communication skills. Let’s examine the pros and cons of being a travel nurse, and what it takes to enter this stimulating field.

Advantages of Being a Travel Nurse

One of the main attractions of travel nursing is the increased pay. Travel nurses often earn higher travel nurse salaries than traditional staff nurses due to the demand for their services. Additionally, travel nurses may receive housing stipends or company-provided housing, which can further increase their overall compensation.

Along with financial benefits, travel nurses have the opportunity to:

  • Explore different healthcare settings and locations

  • Gain valuable experience in various nursing specialties

  • Expand professional horizons

  • Become a well-rounded clinician as a nurse

  • Become more marketable to potential employers

Challenges Faced by Travel Nurses

Despite the numerous benefits, travel nursing also comes with its share of challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Adapting to new work environments

  • Maintaining multiple state licenses

  • Needing at least two years of experience in their nursing specialty before being considered for travel nursing positions.

Balancing work and personal life can also be a challenge for travel nurses, as they may be away from their support networks for extended periods. However, with proper planning and a focus on work-life balance, travel nurses can successfully navigate these challenges and enjoy a fulfilling career.

Education and Licensing Requirements

A nurse in scrubs holding a diploma and a stethoscope

To start, you’ll first need to obtain the necessary education and licensing. This includes earning an ASN/ADN or BSN degree, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and meeting state licensing requirements.

If you have MSN, it is even better.

Obtaining an ASN/ADN or BSN Degree

The first step towards becoming a travel nurse is obtaining a nursing degree.

You can choose to pursue either an ASN/ADN (Associate of Science in Nursing/Associate Degree in Nursing) or a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree.

While both degrees qualify you to work as a registered nurse, a BSN degree is often preferred by hospitals and travel nurse agencies, as it opens up more job opportunities, such as level 1 trauma centers and Magnet-designated healthcare systems.

To earn a nursing degree, you’ll need to:

  1. Enroll in an accredited nursing program

  2. Complete the required coursework and clinical rotations

  3. Once you’ve successfully completed your nursing program, you’ll be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the next crucial step in your journey to becoming a travel nurse.

Passing the NCLEX-RN Exam

The NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) is a standardized exam required for all aspiring registered nurses in the United States. Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is essential for obtaining your nursing license and pursuing a travel nursing career.

Adequate preparation, which includes studying the topics covered, taking practice tests, and understanding the exam format, is a key to success on the NCLEX-RN exam.

With diligent preparation, you’ll be well on your way to passing the NCLEX-RN and becoming a licensed travel nurse.

Compact Nursing License and State Licensing

After passing the NCLEX-RN exam, obtaining the relevant nursing licenses for the states you intend to work in is the next step.

If you live in a compact state, you can obtain a compact nursing license through the nurse licensure compact, which allows you to work in multiple states without needing additional licenses.

This can be a significant advantage for travel nurses, as it simplifies the process of securing assignments in different states.

However, if you don’t live in a compact state, you’ll need to obtain individual nursing licenses for each state you plan to work in.

Gaining Experience and Certifications

A nurse in scrubs with a laptop and a clipboard

With your education and licensing in place, it’s time to focus on gaining experience and certifications in your chosen nursing specialty. Most travel agencies and hospitals require at least two years of nursing experience before considering candidates for travel nursing positions.

The next step is to gain nursing skills, and experience and obtain advanced certifications.

Acquiring Bedside Experience

Bedside experience is crucial for building the skills and expertise needed for travel nursing positions. This hands-on experience involves:

  • Direct patient care and interaction at the bedside

  • Administering medications

  • Monitoring vital signs

  • Attending to patients’ immediate needs

Gaining bedside experience in your chosen nursing specialty not only helps your nursing career but also makes you a more attractive candidate for travel nursing positions.

The more experience you have in your specialty, the better equipped you’ll be to handle the challenges and opportunities that come with travel nursing assignments.

Essential and Advanced Certifications

In addition to clinical skill experience, travel nurses are often required to hold essential certifications such as Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and, Pediatric Life Support (PALS).

Advanced certifications, such as Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN), Certified Critical Care Nurse (CCRN), and Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN), can further enhance your travel nursing career prospects.

Obtaining these certifications demonstrates your expertise in your nursing specialty and can increase your job opportunities and earning potential.

Finding the Right Travel Nursing Agency

A travel nurse in scrubs talking to a recruiter

With your education, experience, and certifications in hand, it’s time to find the right travel nursing agency to help you secure your travel nursing assignments.

The best agencies will understand your career goals and personal preferences, and help you navigate the job market.

Evaluating Travel Nursing Agencies

When evaluating travel nursing agencies, there are several factors to consider. These include:

  • The agency’s reputation

  • Compliance with industry standards

  • Job opportunities

  • Exclusive contracts

  • Expertise

  • Benefits and compensation

Researching various agencies and comparing their offerings can help you find the best fit for your career goals and personal preferences.

It’s also crucial to consider the recruiters.

Look for knowledgeable and friendly recruiters who have been vetted and highly recommended by fellow travel nurses or through trusted partners like

A great recruiter can make all the difference in securing the best travel nursing assignments for you.

Building a Relationship with a Recruiter

Building a strong relationship with a recruiter is essential for navigating the travel nursing job market. A knowledgeable recruiter can provide you access to unique job openings, job search guidance, and assistance during the negotiation stage.

To find the best recruiter, follow these steps:

  1. Research different agencies and recruiters specializing in travel nursing.

  2. Inquire about their services and experience.

  3. Compare your options and choose the recruiter that best aligns with your needs and preferences.

With a strong relationship in place, your recruiter can be your advocate and guide throughout your travel nursing career.

Preparing for Your First Travel Nursing Assignment

Now that you’ve chosen the right travel nursing agency and recruiter, it’s time to prepare for your first travel nursing assignment.

This involves securing housing, adjusting to different healthcare facilities, and managing the logistics of relocation.

Housing and Relocation Tips

When it comes to housing, travel nurses have several options to choose from. Some travel nurse agencies offer housing stipends or company-provided housing, while others may need to find their own accommodations.

Online resources like Airbnb, Furnished Finders, and Facebook groups can help you find suitable housing based on your preferences and budget.

With proper planning and budgeting, the process can be smooth and stress-free.

Make sure to research your destination, secure housing and transportation arrangements, and familiarize yourself with the local area before your assignment begins.

Adjusting to Different Healthcare Facilities

As a travel nurse, you’ll be working in various healthcare facilities, each with its own unique culture, policies, and procedures.

Adapting to these new environments requires strong communication skills, adaptability, and the ability to quickly learn new systems and procedures.

Attend training sessions or workshops to boost your emotional quotient and adapt to the new environment more effectively.

By embracing the challenges and opportunities presented by each new healthcare facility, you’ll continue to grow and thrive in your travel nursing career.

Maintaining Your Nursing License and Continuing Education

Maintaining your nursing license and continuing education is essential for travel nurses. License renewals, additional state requirements, and continuing education units (CEUs) will vary by state.

It’s crucial to stay informed about these requirements and manage them proactively to ensure uninterrupted employment in your travel nursing career.

License Renewals and Additional State Requirements

Proactively managing your license renewals and additional state requirements is crucial for maintaining uninterrupted employment as a travel nurse. These requirements may include:

  • Renewal forms

  • Fees

  • Continuing education classes

  • Demonstration of continued competency in your field

As a travel nurse, it’s essential to stay informed about the specific requirements for each state you plan to work in.

Check with your state’s RN credentialing body for detailed information on license renewal requirements and any additional state-specific requirements.

Meeting Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

Continuing education units (CEUs) are a measure of participation in accredited programs or courses. Meeting CEUs is a requirement for maintaining your nursing license and staying up-to-date with the latest best practices in your field.

Some states have specific CEU requirements for RNs, while others may not require CEUs at all. Be sure to research the CEU requirements for your state and plan accordingly to keep your nursing license active and current.


In conclusion, becoming a travel nurse requires careful planning and dedication to building a strong foundation in nursing education, experience, and certifications. By understanding the role of a travel nurse, obtaining the necessary education and licenses, gaining experience and certifications, finding the right travel nursing agency, and preparing for your first assignment, you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding and exciting travel nursing career.

Embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with this unique profession, and enjoy the flexibility, new experiences, and higher pay that travel nursing has to offer. Your adventure as a travel nurse awaits!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years does it take to be a travel nurse?

It typically takes two to four years to become a travel nurse, including the time it takes to obtain a nursing degree and licensure, as well as at least two years of RN experience.

What is the fastest way to become a travel nurse?

Becoming a travel nurse is achievable and straightforward; earn your degree, pass the NCLEX, gain experience, get licensed, and find a staffing agency to apply to – then you can begin your travel nursing career!

Is it hard to be a travel nurse?

Though it can take some adjustment, overall travel nursing can be quite a rewarding experience. With hard work, long hours, and flexibility you can find success as a travel nurse.

Can you become a travel nurse right out of college?

It’s possible to become a travel nurse right out of college as long as you have some clinical experience. Facilities typically require this before taking on a travel assignment, but you may not need to wait very long to get started. Travel nursing is a great way to gain experience in different settings and to explore different parts of the country. You can also make a good salary and have the flexibility to choose when and where you

How much do travel nurses make?

Travel nurses earn a significantly higher wage than the average staff nurse, with an average salary of $105,000. The weekly wages come out to an average of $2,100 per week.

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