How to Become a Travel Nurse: Choose a Specialty

Nurse in scrubs after learning how to become a travel nurse

More employees today, including nurses, are demanding flexible work scheduling. As a nurse, you may have already heard about the flexibility of travel nursing. If so, you are probably wondering how to become a travel nurse and enjoy the benefits of higher pay with increased work flexibility. 

Travel nurses move around the country on a short-term basis to attend to different kinds of patients. As a travel nurse, you can work in any healthcare setting including public and private practices and residential care. Your role will require you to fill staffing gaps caused by an increase in patients, absentee nurses, or nurses who have quit their jobs. Of course, this means choosing the right specialty for you, which we’ll discuss in this blog.

If you’re ready to find a nursing job or want to learn more about travel nursing opportunities, contact our recruiters or view our job board

How to Become a Travel Nurse: Qualifications

Nurse in scrubs after learning how to become a travel nurse
You’ll need to choose a specialty if you want to know how to become a travel nurse.

To become a travel nurse on AHS NurseStat, you must complete a degree, gain a license. and practice in your specialty for at least two years. Here is how to become a travel nurse:

  1. Earn a BSN Degree –  You can complete either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. A BSN takes at least 4 years. It can also give you access to more job opportunities, such as Level 1 Trauma Centers and Magnet-designated healthcare systems. If you have credits in another nursing field, you may be able to transfer them to a BSN.
  2. Pass the NCLEX Exam – You need to pass the 6-hour National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn an RN license. You’ll be tested on the nursing practice, how to communicate with patients, conditions and treatments, the working of the healthcare system, and legal and ethical issues.
  3. Obtain RN Licensure –  Next, you will gain a license in your state of practice. Some licenses are valid in several states that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. Others are for your home state only.
  4. Gain Nursing Experience – Most healthcare systems require you to have at least 2 years of experience before applying for travel nursing contracts. Some of the skills you need are leadership, flexibility, communication skills, problem-solving, reliability, critical thinking, organization, compassion, and teamwork. 
  5. Find Employment Via Travel Nurse Staffing Agency –  The best travel nurse staffing agency has connections with healthcare providers and will work 24/7 to find your perfect job with competitive benefits.

Benefits of Travel Nursing

Travel nursing offers competitive pay, great benefits, and free housing while exploring new places. Some benefits of travel nursing are:

  1. Great Pay – Travel nurses generally more than permanent employees. Some even make six-figures each year. Your pay comes in the form of salary, bonuses, and reimbursements. You will also enjoy tax-free stipends as well. These varies from state to state and facility to facility. Stipends are for things such as housing, travel, meals, and incidental expenses. 
  2. A Chance To Travel – The adventure of visiting, living in, and exploring different places may be one of your motivations in seeking how to become a travel nurse. Traveling is also a chance to network, which can further your career and social life. 
  3. Freedom From Office Politics  – As a travel nurse, you will not be wrapped up in workplace issues like gossip and other things no one likes to deal with. 
  4. Vast Experience Leading to Professional Growth – Working with people in different locations gives you a wide experience. This is great for your resume and career development.
  5. Flexibility – Travel nurse contracts also vary in shifts, location, and length. So, you can decide where you want to want and the timings. That means you can finally plan for your summer off or work the shift you’ve always wanted.
  6. Job Security – There is a national nurse shortage and hospitals are on the search for qualified professionals. The demand for travel nurses is also on the rise following the COVID-19 pandemic as people are more aware of their health. 

How to Become a Travel Nurse: Choosing a Specialty

Travel nursing comes with a myriad of advantages which you should consider when researching how to become a travel nurse. Here are a few tips to help you find your most suitable assignment.

  1. Consider Demand – Look into areas and specialties where nursing is scarce or extra help is required. Factors such as nurse shortages, population age, population health status, and frequency of natural disasters can all influence nurse demand in different areas.
  2. Your Lifestyle – Note down your interests, priorities and what part of your job fulfills you the most. Some questions to help you make a decision are:
  • Do I thrive in a dynamic, adrenaline-filled environment that’s challenging or do I prefer calm and predictability?
  • Do I want to work with patients closely or stay away from the bedside?
  • Would I prefer to work in a hospital or outpatient setting?
  • Do I prefer to work in pediatrics, adults, geriatrics, or other age groups?
  • Are there certain conditions or patients I’m passionate about, like pregnancy, heart disease, or kidney patients?
  1. Become a Float Nurse – You can start by becoming a float nurse, where you can work in any department based on staffing needs. Note which departments you enjoy working in to help you choose a specialty. 
  2. Network on Social Media – Connect with other nursing professionals and follow conversations on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Ask questions about how to become a travel nurse in specific specialties to obtain firsthand insights to help you make a decision. 

Top Specialties for Travel Nurses

How much does a travel nurse make? The average salary of a travel nurse is $7,917 per month according to Indeed. You can earn more based on your specialty. Here are some high-paying travel nurse specialties:

  1. Labor and Delivery (L&D) nurse: $2,342 – $6,231/week– L&D nurses help birthing mothers. You might also work with postpartum moms and newborns.
  2. Pediatrics nurse: $2,690 – $4,903/week – Pediatric nurses work closely with children with critical conditions and monitor vital signs. 
  3. Emergency Room (ER) nurse: $1,900 – $4,285/week– ER nurses work with patients in the emergency room and are in high demand throughout the country.
  4. Telemetry Nurse:  $1,967 – $4,191/week – Telemetry nurses attend to critically-ill patients requiring cardiac monitoring. 
  5. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse: $2,174 –  $3,765/week – NICU nurses work strictly with critically ill newborns. 
  6. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse: $1,034 – $3,757/week – ICU travel nurses specialize in accident, trauma, organ failure, and surgery patients. You need advanced training and certifications and can also float to most departments.
  7. Operating Room (OR) nurse:  $1,557 – $3,392/week – As an OR nurse, you will assist the surgical team during operations. 
  8. Post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) nurse: $2,830/week – A PACU nurse cares for patients after surgical procedures to help with post-op care.
  9. Step-down unit nurse: $2,736/week – Step-down nurses care for post-ICU patients. You’ll need similar qualifications to those of an ICU nurse.
  10. Medical-surgical nurse: $2,534/week – Medical-surgical nurses are found in hospitals working with different patients. 

Find a Nursing Job with AHS NurseStat

Travel nursing gives you a chance to earn a higher pay and enjoy the adventure of traveling and making new connections. Working in different environments also increases your experience which can skyrocket your career. You need an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as licensure and two years of experience to become a travel nurse. 

When you are choosing a travel nursing specialty, consider factors such as demand and your personality and preferred lifestyle. A specialty such as pediatric nurse pays highly and gives you a chance to work with kids. Other in-demand specialties include Labor and Delivery nursing, ER nursing, NICU nursing, and Telemetry nursing. 

A travel nurse agency can help you obtain licensure and get started on a travel nursing career. AHS NurseStat matches nurses with incredible nursing opportunities throughout the United States. With over 100 years of combined experience in travel nurse staffing, we help you find your perfect job while providing ongoing support and competitive compensation and benefits. Contact our recruiters or view our job board to find your dream job today.