How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse?
How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse? - Travel Nurse Source Blog

How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse?

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How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse

For those with an adventurous spirit and a strong desire to help people, the idea of pairing a fulfilling nursing career with an opportunity to explore new places is exceedingly appealing. You may wonder how long it takes to become a travel nurse.

With exploration comes the need for preparedness, and for those curious about this unique field, understanding the steps required to become a travel nurse is crucial.

This extensive guide explores a timeline and roadmap for those intrigued by this exciting career path.

The Educational

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All nurses, including those aspiring to be travel nurses, must first obtain a nursing degree from an accredited nursing program. This foundational requirement ensures that nurses have the necessary medical knowledge and practical skills to provide patient care. The nursing degree serves as the critical first step in a career that is both rewarding and challenging.

Nursing School Duration

Student 2

The time it takes for you to complete an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree at different nursing schools can vary. For those undertaking an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), the duration typically spans 2 to 3 years.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will extend the timeline to 4 years. This nursing degree may allow for more options when looking for travel nurse positions.


The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is a standardized test that determines nursing candidates’ readiness for entry-level practice. It assesses knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for safe and effective patient care.

To pass, candidates must achieve a minimum competency level by correctly answering various questions. A passing score is 0.0, meaning you answered enough questions to pass.

After completing the NCLEX-RN exam, you will have all the education needed as a registered nurse to begin the next step in becoming a travel nurse.

Clinical Experience


During your education as a nursing student, you will gain hands-on clinical experience in various healthcare settings, ranging from hospitals to community clinics. This practical exposure allows students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world situations, fostering critical thinking and decision-making skills.

Such experiences are pivotal in preparing registered nurses for the unique challenges of travel nursing, where adaptability and quick learning are essential. Your new clinical skills allow you more opportunities to gain nursing experience and improve your chances of landing travel nurse positions.

Specialized Training

Beyond the standard nursing education, aspiring travel nurses often seek out additional training or degrees to enhance their employability.

A nursing specialty such as critical care, labor and delivery, or emergency room nursing can take several years to master. Yet, these areas of expertise can open up a wide range of travel nursing opportunities. Having these skills may also give you an edge over other healthcare professionals who may be competing for the same assignments.

Travel Nurse Certifications

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If you want to become a traveling nurse, you might need additional certifications. You may also benefit from more advanced training than you would as a staff nurse.

Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certifications are essential credentials for healthcare professionals. They indicate proficiency in critical lifesaving procedures.

BLS certification focuses on fundamental resuscitation skills for adults, while ACLS addresses more advanced practices, including how to respond to cardiopulmonary emergencies and strokes.

Both certifications are acquired through accredited coursework and hands-on training programs.

Obtaining certifications such as the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) or Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) positions a nurse as a prime candidate in the competitive field of travel nursing. These credentials show your commitment to excellence and specialized knowledge in critical care or emergency settings.

Hence, they can substantially enhance a nurse’s attractiveness to potential employers and increase their opportunities for desirable assignments.


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Licensing is a key stepping stone for travel nurses, proving their qualifications and competency across state lines.

It ensures that registered nurses meet the essential standards to provide safe and effective care, regardless of location.

RN Licensure

RN licensure

Every state in the U.S. requires nurses to be licensed to practice. This typically requires successfully completing the NCLEX-RN exam. For travel nurses, this means holding a valid RN license in good standing.

Registered nurses must periodically renew their licenses. The requirements for when that happens vary from state to state.

Multistate Licensure

multi state licensure

Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement that allows nurses to practice in multiple states with one multistate license. By participating in the NLC, nurses can work across state lines without obtaining additional licenses.

This particularly benefits travel nurses, as it streamlines the process of taking on assignments in different locations.

The NLC saves time and money and broadens the scope of opportunities available to nurses. Currently, over 30 states are members of the compact, significantly enhancing mobility for someone who wants to become a travel nurse.

To register for a compact nursing license, nurses must first ensure their primary state of residence is a member. They can then apply for a multistate license through their home state’s nursing board, following the specific application guidelines provided.

Non-NLC States

Nurses working in non-NLC states must apply directly to the state’s Nursing Board where they wish to practice. This often involves completing additional paperwork and possibly meeting further educational or clinical experience requirements.

They may also be required to pass a state-specific jurisprudence exam to understand local laws and regulations governing nursing practice.

Travel Nursing-Specific Requirements


Certain states have additional requirements for anyone who wants to become a travel nurse, such as background checks, drug tests, or CEU (continuing education unit) requirements.

Understanding and fulfilling these first before accepting an assignment can save valuable time.

The Recruitment Tango

How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse recruiter photo

Navigating the labyrinth of healthcare institutions across the country is daunting for any registered nurse seeking a change of scenery. This is where travel nurse staffing agencies and nurse recruiters become central partners.

Agency Partnerships

agency partnerships

Many nurses secure their assignments through travel nurse staffing agencies. A travel nursing agency specializes in matching qualified nurses with short-term, high-paying travel nursing positions in diverse locations.

Partnering with a travel nurse staffing agency can significantly expedite the job search process, offering a network of opportunities and administrative support.

A nurse staffing agency can ensure you get access to assignments from your choice of healthcare facilities that will meet your needs for things like health insurance, living expenses, and the nursing position of your choice.

Recruitment Platforms

Another resource available is recruitment platforms. These are designed for travel nursing jobs and can help you find the exact assignment you are looking for.

The Process


Once signed on with a travel nurse staffing agency, the process of applying to find travel nurse placements can move swiftly. Travel nurse staffing agencies typically require a completed application, resume, and references.

For some, a series of interviews—including technical skills assessments—will follow. Once accepted, you can begin the exciting process of reviewing and selecting available travel nurse jobs.

Life as a Nomadic Nurse

life as a travel nurse

The ultimate goal of becoming a travel nurse is to, well, travel. But the adventure doesn’t end with the mere placement in a new location.

Life as a travel nurse combines the thrill of new destinations with the fulfillment of making an impact in diverse medical environments. It requires adaptability, as each assignment brings its own set of challenges and learning opportunities.

Yet, the chance to explore different cultures and communities makes every assignment an adventure worth undertaking.

First Assignment

first assignment

Newly minted travel nurses often find themselves thrown into the fray not long after their acceptances. The first assignment can be exhilarating and a touch overwhelming as nurses acclimate to a new hospital, staff, and patient population. Plenty of resources are available to help you feel more prepared for the role ahead of you.

You will have a variety of options to choose from. You could go for short-term assignments that only last a few weeks, or you can find something that could last much longer.

Onboarding and Housing

How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse onboarding pic

The onboarding process for travel nurses is designed to familiarize them with their new work environment quickly and efficiently. Nurses typically undergo a brief orientation period, where they learn the hospital’s policies, procedures, and systems.

This introduction often includes guided tours of the medical facilities, meetings with departmental staff, and training on the specific equipment they’ll be using. Travel nurse agencies or hospitals might also provide online modules or in-person classes to cover compliance and safety protocols. Flexibility and adaptability are key, as the duration and depth of orientation can vary greatly depending on the assignment.

Housing for travel nurses often comes with a choice between agency-provided accommodation or a housing stipend for those who prefer to find their own living space. Agency accommodations are typically fully furnished and close to the assigned healthcare facility, providing convenience and ease of transition.

Opting for the housing stipend allows nurses to select housing that meets their personal preferences or needs, such as location or living arrangement.

Regardless of the choice, ensuring comfortable and convenient housing is a priority for travel nurse staffing agencies and nurses like you. Make sure this is spelled out on all your travel nurse contracts to make the relocation process as smooth as possible.

Work and Life Balance

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Each travel nursing assignment offers the promise of adventure, but not at the expense of a balanced life. Nurses will need to juggle their role’s demands with exploring their new locale—learning to savor downtime as a vital part of their nursing experience.

For travel nurses seeking a balanced lifestyle, time management becomes key: carving out time for relaxation and exploration is as important as fulfilling professional obligations. Joining local meetups or interest-based groups can serve as excellent gateways to make new friends and integrate into the community.

Volunteering at local events or organizations not only helps in giving back but also in understanding the cultural nuances of the new location.

Lastly, maintaining regular communication with family and friends back home keeps one grounded and connected, enhancing the overall nursing experience of being a travel nurse.

Career Outlook

Now you have a clear picture of the process of becoming a travel nurse. You may be wondering what the career outlook is for this position. Take a quick look at salary and job security for travel nurses in the next few years.

The Travel Nurse Salary

How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse salary image

The average salary of a travel nurse tends to be higher than a registered nurse, reflecting the unique demands and flexibility required for the role. This increase is due to various factors, including the urgency of need, specialized skills, and the willingness to relocate.

Typically, travel nurses can expect to earn a premium over a staff nurse’s salary, with opportunities for bonuses and overtime pay that further enhance earnings. For instance, while an RN might earn an average annual salary, travel nurses often secure contracts that provide significantly higher wages, housing allowances, and travel reimbursements.

The financial advantages of travel nurse salaries and the experience of working in diverse healthcare settings make travel nursing an attractive career path for many nurses seeking both professional growth and exploration.


How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse hallway of a hospital

The demand for travel nurses has skyrocketed nationwide due to ongoing healthcare challenges and increasing patient care needs. Many regions, especially those in rural or underserved areas, urgently need professional traveling nurses.

Specialized fields such as intensive care, emergency room, and labor and delivery are particularly in high demand. Travel nurses ready to mobilize quickly can find numerous opportunities for professional growth and generous compensation.

This escalating need presents a welcoming environment for travel nurses willing to step into these critical roles, ensuring they are integral to healthcare delivery. Their readiness to serve on the front lines enriches their careers and profoundly impacts the communities they serve.

Take The Leap

Take the leap

Becoming a travel nurse is a long process that combines nursing with a desire to travel. The road to becoming a travel nurse can be as long or short as one’s own educational and personal development. It’s a unique blend of experiences that converge to create a healthcare professional ready to make a difference anywhere.

For those who seek both professional growth and the adventure of diverse environments, travel nursing stands as a testament to the boundless possibilities within the noble field of nursing.

Starting the path of a travel nursing assignment is an adventure in and of itself, and each nurse’s journey will be as unique as the places they look forward to exploring. If this post has sparked your interest in becoming a travel nurse. From choosing the right nursing program to specializing in an in-demand area of medicine, each decision will bring you one step closer to the open road and the countless lives you’ll touch in your travel nursing journey.

Author: Daniel Bowman

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  1. Very very informative article ! Thank you for your time in this sir . I’m an LPN of 28 years and looking into doing some travel nursing . Want to see our beautiful country but still need to work . Not ready to retire just yet lol ! Thank you again and best regards. Theresa Honeycutt LPN

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