What does it cost to start out as a travel nurse?

Armed with some strategic information, it's not bad news!

If you are thinking of becoming a travel nurse, you may have questions about what kind of upfront costs you will need to cover to begin with. Some out-of-pocket expenses can occur, but follow our tips to learn how to keep them to a minimum and you’ll soon be on your way to your first assignment.

Licensing and Certifications for Out of State assignments

Traveling across the USA as a nurse means that you need to be licensed for any State jurisdiction that you work. For the majority of States that’s a pretty easy process for RNs and LPN/LVNs. If your state has joined the NLC Compact, (at time of writing, 38 of them have and more are pending, you can see if yours has here) you are good to go. If you still have a single-state license and reside in one of these states, it’s quick and easy to convert it to a multistate/compact license.

If your home state is not part of the NLC agreement, or if you are a CNA, you have to apply for a license for any individual state you plan to work in. The costs and processes for applying to be licensed in the non-NLC states varies pretty widely. You may also have to pay for a criminal background check and fingerprinting in addition.

Some states are much easier than others however. Which ones? Check out our interactive map to find out what the licensing conditions and costs are for each. If money is tight as you are starting out, apply to the ones that are free and allow you to sort out your paperwork online.

Don’t forget – at Wayward Medical we will reimburse your out-of-pocket expenses for your license/certification once you take an assignment.


Cost of Living

When you head off to a new hospital in a new city or state, of course you need a place to live.

There are assignments that provide you with accommodation but in the majority of cases, it’s up to you to organise your own and most experienced travel nurses will tell you to head straight for the best-known and most reputable short-term accommodation finder sites like AirBNB, Furnished Finder and Corporate Housing and not waste time trying to cut costs through small ads or local media under the illusion that this might be a cheaper option.

These sites vet the property owners, most of whom are experienced and professional in their approach to letting and to maintaining and cleaning their flats and houses.

You can expect to arrive and find EVERYTHING you need in place meaning you only have to unpack and get a good night’s rest before focusing on your assignment 100%. Not only that, but rental prices include all your utility bills – it’s easy to see exactly what you need to budget for.

Keen to encourage nurses to make themselves available to hospitals across the US, the government allows travel nurses a tax free stipend to ensure that accommodation costs are not a barrier. You will find that the majority of your income will be untaxed to help you pay for your housing.

Travel & Transportation

The brilliant thing about travel nursing is that the whole of the United States is your oyster – from sea to shining sea! But, whether you choose to drive, fly or use another means of public transport – it does cost money to get there. You’ll need to budget for your travel expenses upfront but don’t worry, we will refund the cost of transportation to your assignment at a rate of $0.XXc per mile and that payment will be made with your first pay packet.

As with licensing costs, you can limit this expense at first by applying for jobs within a range that’s easier on the pocket and save your long distance choices for when you have had time to enjoy the great earning potential of travel nursing for a while.

And then there is travel when you get there – reaching your accommodation on arrival, travel to and from the hospital and just general getting about. Be sure to take this into account before accepting accommodation. Is there good public transport to the hospital? What kind of taxi services are available to get you home after a shift – especially in more rural areas? Check it all out and factor it into your budget, especially for the first month or so before you get paid.

Your Wayward Medical recruiter will go through all these elements with you and make sure that you have full and clear information about your assignment so that you can make good decisions and pave the way for a happy and successful assignment..

Arrange a chat with a Wayward recruiter

We’ll help you to create a personal plan for success as a travel nurse, and make sure you know exactly what you can expect from us and when. Arrange a chat with one of our travel nursing experts to discuss your individual situation today: