How to Become a Travel Nurse

how to become a travel nurse
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Choosing to be a travel nurse is a lucrative and thrilling career choice.  It’s one that comes with tons of autonomy, time off to live your life the way you want, and in most cases double the pay than that of a staff nurse.  If you’re just starting in nursing school, or you’ve been a staff nurse for some time and you’re looking to move forward in your career, then you may find yourself searching the world wide web for, “How to become a travel nurse”.  I’m here to tell you, it’s quite simple by following these steps!


How to Become a Travel Nurse

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So how do you become a travel nurse?  The truth is there are only a few main requirements when it comes to being a travel nurse.  The main travel nurse requirements are getting a degree, getting licensed, gaining valuable nursing experience, securing a trustworthy recruiter, and having the right attitude.


Before reading further, don’t miss 10 Tips for First Time Travel Nurses


What is Travel Nursing?

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So let’s start with the most obvious question – what exactly is travel nursing?  Put simply, a travel nurse is a nurse that travels to different hospitals throughout the United States because there is a need for nurses.  When there’s a need for nurses it usually means that staff retention is low, someone has gone out on maternity leave, there are too many new grads being oriented to a unit, or there’s a surge in patients.  Some hospitals consistently hire travel nurses while other hospitals only get travel nurses sparingly.

Travel nurses are usually hired for 13-weeks at a time and when that time is up they can either extend their contract (as long as there is a need) or move on to pick another assignment.


For more on what travel nursing is, check out Travel Nursing… What’s That?


How to Get into Travel Nursing

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To get into travel nursing, you first need to get into nursing.  I do NOT recommend becoming a travel nurse if you don’t love nursing first.  This is because nursing is at the core of being a travel nurse.  All of the freedom, flexibility, and money in the world won’t make you happy if you don’t truly love what you’re doing.  And if you don’t truly love to be a staff nurse – then you definitely won’t truly love to be a travel nurse.


Getting Your Degree in Nursing – BSN

To be a travel nurse you need to have a degree in nursing.  I recommend getting your BSN because that is what most nursing models are turning to.  However, if you already have your associate’s degree in nursing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a travel nurse.

You can get your degree from a 4-year college or you can apply to accelerated nursing programs if you already have a degree in a different field.  Accelerated programs usually take anywhere from 12-18 months to complete.  At this time you’ll graduate with a BSN.


Getting Your RN

Once you graduate with your BSN, you aren’t done yet.  You still need your RN – registered nurse.  You get your RN by passing the NCLEX – the nationwide examination for licensing of nurses in the US, Australia, and Canada.

Once you have your RN you’re officially a nurse and can start working as one.


Working As an RN

The next critical step in becoming a travel nurse is first being a staff nurse.  This is key to becoming a travel nurse and cannot be skipped over.  If you’re wondering, “How many years does it take to become a travel nurse”, then the best answer I can give is 2+ years (not including the time it takes to get your degree).

While you can sometimes get hired as a travel nurse before having two years of experience, I don’t recommend it.  This is because travel nurses are hired due to the unit needing help.  This means that you’re expected to show up, and jump right into the mix.  There’s a very short orientation process and sometimes very few resources for help.  You’ll be expected to know most things and how do you know most things if you don’t have enough experience?


Read more:  How Much Experience Do You *Really* Need to Become a Travel Nurse?


Finding a Company/Recruiter

Once you’ve gained 2+ years of experience as a nurse, the next step is reaching out to a recruiter.  I recommend getting a referral for a specific recruiter from someone you know and trust.  If you can’t find a recruiter this way, you can instead pick a company and put your information on their website, where they will then match you with a random recruiter.

It’s key to pick a good recruiter that you trust because they can make or break your travel nurse dreams.  They will be who submits you to each job and who you regularly connect with before, during, and after your assignment.




Finding a recruiter and a company can be confusing and overwhelming.  Read the following posts if you need more guidance or clarification:

30 Questions to Ask a Travel Nurse Recruiter

Why Picking a Travel Nurse Recruiter is More Important than Picking a Company

Why it’s Important to Work With More than One Travel Nurse Recruiter

How to Pick the Right Travel Nurse Recruiter For You

Travel Nurse Agencies Ranked by Travel Nurses

Not All Travel Nurse Companies Are Created Equal – What to Know Before Signing Your First Contract


Landing a Job As a Travel Nurse

Once you’ve picked a company/recruiter your work is mostly done.  Your recruiter will begin submitting you to jobs that you want and all you have to do is nail your interview and land the job!  The hard work is behind you and you’re ready to live out your dream of traveling throughout the country and having unlimited time off of work to live your life the way you want!


Read more:

What to Expect Once You Get a Job As a Travel Nurse

4 Common Travel Nurse Interview Questions, Plus How to Nail Your Interview


How to Be a Travel Nurse (a Recap)

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So, how long does it take to become a travel nurse?  From start (when you begin school), to end (landing your first travel nurse job), the process ends up being nearly 6+ years.  This includes getting your degree, getting licensed, working as a staff nurse, all the way up to working as a travel nurse.  The process can be long and daunting at times, but I can guarantee you that it will be worth it.


For even more detailed information on becoming a travel nurse, purchase The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle for everything you need to know about going from staff nurse to travel nurse!


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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