How to Become a Travel Nurse

Travel nurses help ameliorate nursing shortages at different healthcare facilities around the country. Travel nursing offers you the opportunity to see other parts of the U.S., make friends nationwide, and improve your skills by working with a variety of nurses and doctors.

The path to travel nursing is straightforward, but be sure you have all the requirements before embarking on this exciting career.

Educational Requirements for Travel Nurses

You can become a travel nurse with either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Maybe you’re already working in another profession and are wondering how to become a travel nurse. Many online programs allow you to get your ADN or BSN by distance learning. You can work and attend school at the same time.

A BSN program will give you more options for working because many hospitals and healthcare facilities only hire nurses with BSN degrees.

If you’re going for your BSN from an ADN, you need to take the NCLEX exam before entering most programs. Registered nurses take the NCLEX-RN. Licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses will need the NCLEX-PN.

Nursing school graduate wonders how to become a travel nurse

Licensure Requirements

All travel nursing positions require you to be licensed, regardless of your educational background. You must be licensed in the state you are practicing in.

If you have met all the educational requirements for travel nurses, consider pursuing licensure in a Compact Nursing State. Currently, 39 states and territories, including Guam and the Virgin Islands, have joined the Compact. The Compact allows you to use the same license to become a travel nurse in however many of these states are members.

If you want to work in a non-Compact state, you will have to get an individual license for that state. Legislature is in the works in several more states, so you can expect your ability to use your license to grow as more states join the Compact.

Certification Requirements

Person performing CPR on a dummy

Requirements vary according to the type of nursing you plan to do, but most hospitals and healthcare facilities need you to have Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.

Many will also require you to have either a Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification. Your nursing school should be able to advise you on which certifications you need for your intended position.

One of the many benefits of using a travel nurse staffing agency is that they can inform you of the specific certifications you need and/or match you with a healthcare institution that lacks a nurse with the credentials you do have.

Experience Requirements

Many hospitals require at least 2 years of experience as an RN or in your specialty to become a travel nurse. A great way to gain some experience while still in nursing school is with an externship. During your externship, you’ll be paid to work alongside RNs and doctors and gain invaluable experience in your field.

Pro Tip: Externships can be a great way to determine if a particular specialty suits you. You gain experience and knowledge without being tied to that specialty for your career.

Personality Requirements

It may sound strange to talk about personality when thinking about how to become a travel nurse. Travel nurses are a special kind of nurse–willing to take shorter assignments in exchange for personalizing their working conditions.

Travel nursing might be perfect for you if you like to travel, meet new people, and experience different situations. Some assignments are as short as 4 weeks, and the longer ones are as long as a year. And everything in between.

You will have to be organized since you have the potential to move around and need to make sure you can neatly wrap up one assignment before heading to the next.

A travel nurse is not solitary, even though they may move alone and live alone. You will have the opportunity to make friends wherever you go, and many travel nurses even have pets! Meeting the educational requirements for travel nurses is not the job’s most essential part. The most important thing is openness to new experiences and willingness to give unfamiliar things a try.

How to Get Your First Job as a Travel Nurse

A travel nurse on the road

It can be daunting starting out as a nurse. Even veteran nurses can face challenges when wanting to become a travel nurse; however, there is a way to make it easier. Nurse staffing agencies do the work of looking for a job for you. Register with an agency like Coast Medical Service, and they will match you with the healthcare environment that best suits you.

If you’d like to have weekends off or prefer to work nights, an agency can negotiate a well-compensated contract that gives you the work-life balance you want. Agencies also have jobs all over the U.S., so you can find placements whether you prefer to try a country town or a metropolis.

So what do you think? Is travel nursing for you? If so, get educated, licensed, and certified–and then get ready for the open road!

Contact Coast at 323-639-5436, email us at or use our online form to reach out and start your application.

December 10, 2022Travel NursingCharles Stover

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