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10 Best Cities for Travel Nurses

10 Best Cities for Travel Nurses
Image by ESB Professional via Shutterstock


Everyone loves vacations, but did you know they're actually good for your health? It's true. In fact, a vacation can make you more productive at work.

Yet, the 50% of Americans who aren't planning a vacation this year say it's because they can't afford it. 

So, why pay for a vacation when you can do the opposite? As a traveling nurse, you can get paid to travel to new and exciting locations throughout the country. 

If you're a traveling nurse, you may wonder about the best cities for nurses and tourists alike. That's why we're bringing you this list of the top cities to consider in your traveling health care career. 

Want to know how much you can expect to make in LA vs. NYC? Keep reading to learn the answer to that question and more. 

What is a Travel Nurse?

The travel nursing sector helps make up for the nursing shortage in America. When a hospital or other health care organization is short-staffed on nurses, a travel nurse comes in to fill the gaps. 

These health care organizations work with staffing agencies to find travel nurses from around the country. That means a travel nurse may be from the same state or a completely different state to where the health care facility operates. 

Contracts for travel nurses can vary from short- to long-term.

However, contracts most commonly last for 12-13 weeks. Depending on a location's demand for nurses, though, that contract length can go way up or way down. 

As you can glean, the high demand for travel nurses also translates to an increased salary and better job prospects. 

Travel Nurse Salary

In 2018, registered nurses (RN) made a median annual pay of $34.48 per hour or $71.30 per year. Since this number represents the median, some RNs were paid more, and some were paid less than $34.48 per hour. 

Due to the high demand for travel nurses, you can expect that average to increase. Choose a location with a high demand for nurses, and you can make an average of up to three figures per year. 

Travel Nurse Job Outlook

Nursing jobs are in higher demand than ever before. Indeed, the total job outlook for RNs is growing at 12%. That's much faster than the national average for overall job growth in the US. 

Though there are fewer openings for travel nurses overall, these health care professionals are in even more demand than your typical RN. That means you can expect a better job outlook as a traveling nurse than you can as an RN. 

Why Become a Travel Nurse?

Traveling nurses get paid a lot and are in high demand right now, but pay and job growth aren't everything. Why else should you consider this career? 

There are many benefits of travel nursing, such as:

  • Personal and Professional Flexibility. Work anywhere for as long or as short as you want when you're a traveling nurse. 
  • See New Cities. Whether you're shopping for a city to call home or want to see them all before settling down, a career in travel nursing can help you do it. 
  • Never Worry about Housing. Most travel nursing jobs add in housing to your flexible contract. That means you can travel wherever you want without having to worry about house or apartment shopping from afar. 
  • Reimbursements. From the cost of your flight to the price you must pay for a new state license, you're completely covered as a travel nurse. 
  • Advance Your Career. A career in travel nursing sets you apart from the competition, making you a more attractive prospect for any job you apply to in the future. 
  • Help More People. As a traveling nurse, you know your skills are truly needed. 

How to Become a Travel Nurse

So, are you convinced that being a traveling nurse is the right career for you? Then you may be wondering how to start working as a travel nurse. Of course, you must first be a registered nurse (RN), nurse practitioner (NP), or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). 

To become an RN, you have to at least have an Associate degree in nursing. However, keep in mind that a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing is becoming more and more common among RNs these days. 

Since NPs are advanced practice RNs, they need a little bit more schooling, which typically means a Master's of Science in Nursing. NPs must also seek additional certifications. 

LPNs must go through a state-approved program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination to become certified. Still, LPNs aren't required to hold a college degree. For that reason, seeing an LPN as a traveling nurse is somewhat uncommon. 

Once you have your nursing degree, there's one more requirement. You must practice for at least one year before applying to be a travel nurse. 

The 11 Best Cities for Nurses

It's time to talk about which US cities are the best for traveling nurses. To make our list, each city has to offer high pay for nurses, have a demand for travel nurses specifically, and provide some excellent sites and attractions for after-hours fun. 

Let's get started with the first city on our list, sunny Los Angeles.

1. Los Angeles, California

LA is the second-largest city in the US and the #1 highest paying city for nurses. The average salary of a regular nurse is over $85,000. That means you can expect a much higher pay rate as a traveling nurse. 

When you aren't practicing, there's no shortage of things to do either. Check out Universal Studios, Disneyland Park, or hike up to the Hollywood sign. Maybe you'll even spot a celebrity during your lunch break!

2. New York City, New York

Ah, the big apple. This city boasts 8.6 million people, all living within only 300 square miles, creating a need for over 60,000 new nurses by 2030. With all that demand, it should be no wonder that nurses get paid well: an average salary of nearly $80,000 per year.

You won't have to worry about being bored in this city, either. From the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building to Central Park and Times Square, NYC is home to centuries of culture and history. You can see it all and more as a travel nurse.

3. Seattle, Washington

This rainy city is famous for being the setting of Grey's Anatomy. Yet, it's also a great place to be a nurse in real life. Regular nurses make an average annual salary of over $75,000, a number bound to go up with the city's projected shortage of 13,000 nurses by 2025.

Plus, coffee lovers will appreciate being in the coffee capital of the USA. You can check out Starbuck's original Pike Place store and visit the Pike Place Market, the world's oldest farmer's market.

If that's not your cup of tea, you may prefer checking out one of the many museums this city has to offer. The Museum of Pop Culture and the Museum of Flight are two favorite tourist attractions. 

4. Tampa, Florida

Looking for a city where you can feel like you're always on vacation? Search no further than Tampa, a tourist, retirement, and nurse haven in Florida.

Primarily due to the aging population, nurses are in high demand here. Regular nurses can earn an average of $70,000 per year, which means you can command an even higher salary as a traveling nurse. 

Tampa was once the cigar capital of the USA, but now it's home to some incredible outdoor adventure. Check out the Busch Gardens or Adventure Island for an amusement park-like experience. Or see all Tampa's wildlife has to offer at The Florida Aquarium and ZooTampa. 

5. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the third-largest US city and home to some of the largest and most prestigious health care organizations in the country. Despite this fact, Chicago can't slip the nursing shortage. Demand for nurses has pushed average salaries up to nearly $70,000 per year. 

This city is often called the New York City of the midwest. That's because Chicago is never short on incredibly-designed skyscrapers. It also has a park similar to Central Park called Millennium Park, where you can check out the famous "Bean" and nearby Willis Tower. 

6. Denver, Colorado

Three million people live in the Mile-High City, which is also home to some of the best healthcare systems in the country. Denver is also the highest paying city in Colorado for regular nurses, offering a $68,000+ average salary.

Denver is the perfect city for traveling nurses who love the outdoors. The city proper is home to the famed Denver Botanic Gardens and the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Make a day trip to Pikes Peak, too, if you want to do some serious outdoor mountain adventuring

7. Boston, Massachusetts

Are you a history buff? Then you're going to love this city that's also a great place to be a traveling nurse: Boston.

This city may be home to Harvard, Boston University, and MIT, but the demand for nurses is still huge. Regular nurses get paid an average of nearly $68,000. 

Boston is also one of the oldest cities in the US, and it shows. With one stroll down Freedom Trail, you can discover essential sites to American history, museums, and more all on one route. 

8. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta boasts one of the largest metropolitan areas in the US, which is why its five million-strong population needs so many nurses. Demand is so high that regular nurses can command average salaries of $66,000 and more. 

When you aren't working at one of the city's prestigious hospitals or health centers, you'll have plenty to do. You can tour Centennial Olympic Park, the site of the 1996 Olympics. Or check out the World of Coca Cola museum to learn all about the country's favorite soda drink. 

9. Austin, Texas

Austin is the capital of Texas and the fastest-growing city in the US. It's no wonder regular nurses see an average salary of $65,000+ per year. 

For traveling nurses, you can expect to command much higher pay. Why? Because Austin staffers are having trouble finding enough local nurses to keep up with growing demand. 

While you're in the area, you've got to check out Zilker Park and its 3-acre swimming pool, Barton Springs. Snap photos of the pink (yes, pink!) state capitol building and take a tour of the nearby University of Texas' sprawling campus while you're at it. 

10. Miami, Florida

A melting pot of culture and beach life, Miami is a great place to be a travel nurse. Here's why: regular nurses get paid over $60,000 per year. That means you, an in-demand travel nurse, can ask for an even bigger salary. 

Miami is known for its wild nightlife, but that's not all. The beaches are always crowded and always beautiful. If you're looking for a city to revitalize your social life, Miami may be the best city to be a travel nurse. 

11. Nashville, Tennessee

Last but not least, the country music capital of the world: Nashville. This city has an extremely fast-growing economy, which explains why the town needs so many nurses. 

Even with nearby Vanderbilt University, regular nurses in Nashville can command an average salary of more than $59,000 per year. Expect even more if you're an RN- or BSN-certified travel nurse. 

From the Grand Ole Opry to the Country Music Hall of Fame, country music lovers will be in heaven in Nashville. Be sure to make time after work to catch a big concert or local band playing at one of the many country bars in the city. 

The Final Word on Travel Nursing Jobs in America

The best cities for nurses in the US are even better for traveling nurses. That's because you'll be getting paid more to explore your new city. Better yet, you have the flexibility to put off your next contract to see everything it has to offer. 

Are you looking for a job as a travel nurse? Hospital Careers can help. Search for traveling nurse jobs today and start working in the career of your dreams!

 Advance your career. Change your life. - HospitalCareers