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How much money can a travel nurse make compared to a resident nurse?

Travel Nurse Health Insurance

Nursing is a noble and rewarding profession that allows individuals to make a positive impact on patients’ lives. While registered nurses (RNs) work in various healthcare settings, travel nurses and RN residents represent two distinct career paths with differences in salary and benefits. In this article, we will delve into the earnings potential of travel nurses compared to RN residents, shedding light on the factors that influence their pay scales and the pros and cons of each career choice.

I. Understanding the Roles of Travel Nurses and RN Residents

  1. Travel Nurses Travel nurses are skilled and experienced RNs who choose to work on a temporary basis, often for 13-week assignments or longer, in various healthcare facilities across different states or even countries. They fill in staffing gaps, respond to emergencies, and provide specialized care in high-demand areas.
  2. RN Residents RN residents, on the other hand, are newly graduated or licensed nurses who have just started their nursing careers. They undergo residency programs, which are structured training periods aimed at providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in their chosen nursing specialties.

II. Factors Affecting Travel Nurse Earnings

  1. Location The location of the assignment significantly impacts a travel nurse’s pay. Certain states or regions experiencing nursing shortages offer higher wages and attractive benefits to attract skilled healthcare professionals. Urban areas with higher living costs may also offer increased compensation to compensate for the increased expenses.
  2. Experience and Specialization Travel nurses with extensive experience and specialized skills are in high demand. Those with certifications in critical care, emergency room, or intensive care units can command higher pay rates due to their expertise and the increased responsibilities associated with their roles.
  3. Agency and Contract Negotiations Travel nurses often work through staffing agencies that negotiate their pay packages with healthcare facilities. These agencies may offer different compensation structures, including tax-free stipends for housing, meals, and other expenses, which can significantly impact a travel nurse’s take-home pay.

III. Comparing Travel Nurse Salaries with RN Resident Salaries

  1. Travel Nurse Earnings The average salary for a travel nurse in the United States can vary widely based on factors like experience, location, and specialization. On average, travel nurses can earn anywhere between $65,000 to $100,000 annually, with some top-earning travel nurses exceeding six figures, particularly those with highly sought-after skills and extensive experience. Travel nurses don’t get benefits, so they have to obtain their own health insurance for travel nurses
  2. RN Resident Salaries RN residents typically earn lower salaries compared to experienced travel nurses due to their entry-level status. As residents undergo training and orientation during their residency programs, their average salary can range from $50,000 to $70,000 annually. However, as they gain experience and transition to regular RN roles, their earnings can increase.

IV. Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing and RN Residency

  1. Pros of Travel Nursing
  • Higher Earnings: Travel nurses often earn more than their resident counterparts, especially those with specialized skills and experience.
  • Flexibility and Adventure: Travel nursing offers the chance to explore different places, cultures, and healthcare settings.
  • Short-Term Commitments: Travel nurses can choose assignments that fit their schedules and have the freedom to take time off between assignments.
  1. Cons of Travel Nursing
  • Uncertain Job Security: The nature of travel nursing means that there might be periods between assignments without income.
  • Constant Adjustments: Frequent relocations can be challenging, leading to disruptions in personal life and social connections.
  • Potential Licensing Challenges: Travel nurses must obtain licenses for each state they work in, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
  1. Pros of RN Residency
  • Structured Training: RN residents receive extensive training and mentorship, helping them develop their nursing skills.
  • Job Stability: RN residents usually secure positions within the facility where they completed their residency, providing job security.
  • Networking Opportunities: Residency programs allow residents to build professional networks within their chosen healthcare institutions.
  1. Cons of RN Residency
  • Lower Starting Salaries: RN residents generally earn less than travel nurses, especially during their training period.
  • Limited Flexibility: Residents might be bound by contracts and may have less control over their assignments or job locations.
  • Fewer Benefits: RN residents may receive fewer benefits compared to experienced travel nurses, who often get more attractive compensation packages.


In conclusion, both travel nurses and RN residents play vital roles in the healthcare industry, but they follow distinct paths with varying earnings potential. Travel nurses have the opportunity to earn higher salaries, especially if they possess specialized skills and experience, and they enjoy the adventure of working in different locations. On the other hand, RN residents benefit from structured training and job stability but might start with lower salaries. Deciding between these two career options ultimately depends on an individual’s preferences, financial goals, and career aspirations. Regardless of the path chosen, both travel nurses and RN residents continue to contribute significantly to patient care and the betterment of the healthcare system as a whole.