2019 Travel Nurse Compensation Report

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Avg. Gross Weekly Pay
for Travelers

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In-Demand Specialty

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Avg. Weekly Pay Difference for Travelers vs. Staff

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St. Louis, MO

Most Travel-Friendly City

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Highest-Paying State

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San Francisco, CA

Highest-Paying City for Travelers

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Trusted is on a mission to bring transparency to the hiring process within the healthcare industry. We've compiled data from thousands of jobs across more than 100 specialties for registered nurses throughout the country to develop this report on how travel nurses are being compensated in 2019. This report answers some of the most frequently asked questions in the travel nursing industry such as:

Trusted is uniquely positioned to speak to pay rates across the industry by providing pay package details and facility information upfront before the interview process even begins, which allows us to be consistent with pay rates across the industry. Additionally, we include both taxable income and non-taxable stipends into a cumulative gross weekly pay rather than an hourly rate to ensure consistency across the variable hours and shifts that travel nurses work.

Trusted aims to equip nurses with the resources they need to confidently participate in the job market and make more informed decisions by providing accurate information on what RNs are earning across the country. We're also able to share this information with partners and health care facilities to enable them to make more informed decisions on how to attract great talent across a variety of specialties. This is invaluable during a time when the nursing shortage is at its most severe. This reports stands as just the first step to a more transparent health care industry. So, let's jump into the findings.

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A Closer Look At Travel Nursing Specialties

In conducting our analysis of the travel nursing industry, we established a baseline average gross weekly pay for travel nurses of $1,786. However, when choosing a specialization, a nurse should consider a number of factors, including demand, location, and average gross weekly pay.

Share of Total Marketplace

share of total market place graph

Demand for a given specialty is one factor that may impact a nurse's decision to pursue a new specialization. ICU nurses are the most in-demand across all travel nurse specialties accounting for 16.5% of the total jobs in our dataset, followed by Medical-Surgical, OR, and ER.

However, it's important to note that demand does not necessarily mean better pay. Anesthetists and Perinatal RNs, for example, do not have as many openings across the country as ICU or Medical-Surgical, even though their gross weekly pay is almost twice as high.

Top 10 Travel
Nursing Specialties

By Total Job Count

Top City (# of Jobs)
National Avg. Pay for Travel Nurses
San Francisco
St. Louis
Operating Room
San Francisco
Emergency Room
New York City
St. Louis
Labor & Delivery
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Step-Down Unit
San Diego
San Diego
San Diego

Download the full list of 100+ specialties here.

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State of the Nursing

States Facing the Worst Nursing Shortage

map of USA showing nurse shortages

According to the Department of Health, there are currently seven states facing the largest deficit of nurses by 2030[1]. Four states have a deficit of 10,000 or more full-time employees: California,Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina, followed by Alaska, Georgia, and South Dakota with deficits less than 10,000.

Future nurses may want to target one of these shortage states for their home base to ensure they have plenty of local job opportunities, should they anticipate moving to staff nursing in the future. Additionally, three of these shortage states (Texas, South Carolina, and South Dakota) are part of the Nursing Licensure Compact coalition, which means nurses with Compact Licensure will have ample opportunity to work in areas where nurses are in short supply without the added expense of obtaining additional state licensure.

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The Top U.S. Cities for Travel Nurses

We define top U.S. cities as those that have a high total number of travel nursing jobs, a low cost of living index, and a higher average gross weekly pay for travel nurses over staff nurses.

Average Gross Weekly Pay for Top Cities

average growth weekly page for top cities graph. san fransisco: $2200, los angeles: $1945, new york city: $1810, seattle: $1785, chicago: $1742, atlanta: $1728, san diego: $1684, st.louis: $1672, tuscon: $1671, philadelphia: $1663

While it’s no surprise that San Francisco is at the top of the list for average gross weekly pay, other cities like St. Louis may provide better value for travelers due to a lower cost of living index and a higher rate of pay compared to their staff counterparts.

Travel Nurse vs. Full-Time Nurse Pay Differential

travel nurse vs full time nurse pay differential graph. san fransico: -$32, los angeles: $215, new york city: $232, seattle $299, chicago: $397, atlanta: $461, san diego: -$20, st. louis: $497, tuscon: $383, philadelphia: $318.

In most cases travel nurses earn more than their staff nurse counterparts, with the exception of San Francisco and San Diego, where travel nurses actually earn $20-30 less on average each week. Likewise, the largest pay differential between the two actually occurs in St. Louis and Atlanta, where travel nurses earn over $450 more on average each week.

Average Gross Weekly Pay for Travel Nurses vs. Local Residents

average gross weekly pay for travel nurses vs. local residents

Average Gross Weekly Pay vs. Cost of Living Index

average gross weekly pay vs. cost of living index.

Note: The cost of living index is based on a scale of 1-100 to indicate how expensive the cost of living is in a given city, with 1 being the most affordable and 100 being the most expensive. The U.S. average cost of living index is 69.91.[2]

We wanted to see how far the average travel nurse’s pay would stretch in each of our top ten cities. We did this in two ways: by plotting it against the cost of living in each city and comparing it to the average salary of that city’s residents.

What we found is that travel nurses earn competitive pay, even in expensive cities like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, where they earn 29, 34 and 60 percent more than the average resident respectively. What’s more, given California’s nursing shortage, San Francisco and Los Angeles also represent markets with ample job opportunities for travel nurses.

Tucson is also a desirable city for travelers. Its cost of living is among the lowest on our list and travel nurses earn a whopping 86 percent more than the average resident.

Shift Type

Gross Weekly Pay by Shift Type

gross weekly pay by shift type. Day: $1755, Night $1714.

Breakdown of Jobs by Shift Type

breakdown of jobs by shift type. Day: 48%, Night: 52%.

Traditionally, full-time night shift nurses receive bonus salary for working nights, however our data indicates that night shift travel contracts and day shift travel contracts have roughly the same gross weekly pay.

Compact States

Compact vs. Non-compact

compact vs non-compact states. Compact $1662, Non-compact: $1851.

Compact vs. Non-Compact (% of Jobs)

compact vs. non-compact (% of jobs). Compact: 34%, non-compact: 66%.

Despite the fact that the number of Compact Licensure states has recently grown to include over half of the U.S. states, 66% of travel nursing contracts still come from non-compact states. For example, California is currently a non-compact state and accounts for 37% of all travel nursing contracts in our dataset.


The future of travel nursing is looking bright, and the industry is expected to continue growing in the coming years. An aging U.S. population means a higher demand for nurses nationwide. And with an economic recession looming, health care facilities will likely be encouraged to hire travel nurses to allow for greater flexibility in hiring.

These macro trends become even more pronounced when considering the current nursing shortage that already exists across the country. Because of this, travel nursing is proving itself to be both a lucrative and secure career choice and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, particularly for those nurses who work in high-demand specialties like the ICU.

By shedding light on hiring trends in the healthcare industry, we strive to equip nurses with the information they need to confidently enter the workforce. We aim to bring a positive and lasting impact on the nursing industry by combating  the nursing shortage so that people everywhere can get the care they deserve.


This report is based on proprietary information gathered and analyzed by Trusted Health. For the purpose of this report, we reviewed thousands jobs and more than 100 specialties throughout the United States. Staff nursing data was determined using the Bureau of Labor Statistics salary data, which was normalized to align with a standard travel nurse contract of a 36-hour work week or 1,872 work hours per year. All data is assumed to be pre-tax and doesn’t include health insurance, retirement benefits, etc.

[1]: Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce: 2014-2030”. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

[2]: Cost of living data was obtained from Numbeo

Download the complete 2019
Travel Nurse Compensation Report

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