4 Travel Nurse Pay Pitfalls to Avoid

In travel nursing, many factors play a role in deciding if you want to accept a specific travel nursing job. The main objective is usually the pay and the specific benefits that come with it. Travel nursing pay packages have more variables than permanent pay packages, and different agencies pitch their packages differently.

When you receive an offer from a travel nurse agency, you must dig a little deeper and ask clarifying questions to guarantee you understand what you’re getting. Not all offers are created equal, and it’s easy to be disappointed if you don’t know exactly what you are signing up for. By avoiding these four travel nurse pitfalls, you can prevent confusion and get all you deserve. 

1. Ignoring Pay Package Details

When comparing different pay packages, travel nurses need to look closely at every aspect that creates the total picture and actually compare apples to apples, not oranges. This pitfall is most common with travelers who compare their respective compensation packages and see one nurse making significantly more than the other—now they think they’re getting ripped off by their travel nursing agency. Taking time to thoroughly check what’s in your offer can decrease uncertainty and bring forward all the information you need to make a clear decision.

Also, what looks like an offer could just be a generic package without consideration for your preferences or personal situation. Being as specific as possible helps you create a customized package and figure out what you expect to receive. That’s why many agencies stress the importance of reading the fine print. If there’s any doubt, contact your travel nurse recruiter with questions.

2. Travel Nursing Hours

“Why are we discussing the number of hours when we should be focused on pay,” you ask? Well, the number of hours within a pay package plays a fundamental role in ensuring you’re not falling for a trap. “$2,100 a week” sounds more enticing than “$1,800 a week,” but if you’re unaware that this is a 48-hour vs. 36-hour comparison, you could be biting off more than you can chew. A percentage of travel nurses will be so enticed by the bigger number that they’ll accept it without a second thought. Some travel nursing agencies are not as transparent as they should be, and you’ll only discover this discrepancy after you begin your travel nurse assignment. It’s up to you to be thorough and try to answer these questions:

  • Is your contract for 36, 40, or 48 hours a week? 
  • Does that include weekends, holidays, etc.? 
  • How does the pay break down by hour? 

The different answers to these questions can impact your package in some way, shape, or form. If you’re not paying attention, you may make the weekly pay promised in the travel nurse contract, but you’ll be working more hours than initially planned.

3. Focusing On The Base Rate Alone

The base rate of your pay package shouldn’t be the only influential factor you look for when evaluating your options. Many travel nurses believe that if the offered amount is lower than a specific number, it’s not worth looking at twice, which is untrue! Travel nursing pay packages are all comprised of various elements that come together in the end to give you a top offer. Determining a contract’s blended rate is the most comprehensive approach to finding the most lucrative choice—the highest number doesn’t always equate to the best opportunity.

Earning more money could be a goal for most travelers, but it’s still essential to find travel nursing contracts that take into account your priorities so you can stay happy with your decision. Being close to family and friends, working in a specialized facility, or choosing a location you really enjoy might outweigh a few more dollars an hour.

4. Tax Time

Tax time can be daunting, especially for professionals who earn income at variable rates, like travel nurses. Accepting a meager taxable hourly wage could set you up for tax penalties later on. To avoid paying unexpected, sometimes unnecessary, tax bills, ensure you’re eligible for non-taxable perks. Tax-free income and benefits are among the many draws to travel nursing and a selling point for most travel nurse agencies.

Remember, certain states have much higher payroll tax rates than others, so whatever percentage you use during your calculations should reflect your travel nursing location.

There’s a lot for travel nurses to think about when finding the right pay package that works for them. An essential step in beginning this journey is to have an agency with recruiters and travel advocates you can trust—like Nurse First. We’re known as the #1 travel nursing agency for transparency because we show you everything you need to know upfront. 

Learn more about how Nurse First could be right for you, and then view our job board for travel nurse jobs and top travel nurse locations. Happy traveling!

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