From picking up per diem shifts to going back to school, there’s multiple ways for travel nurses to earn more.

No one goes into nursing to get rich – most nurses are answering a call to help others. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure you’re being paid well for providing care. There’re many ways to increase your pay as a nurse or allied pro, but where should you start? Well, we’ve put together some of our top suggestions on how to maximize your pay. Some of these are easy to implement – but others will take time, a personal investment, and drive.

We know not all of you that visit this page are travel nurses. Good news! Most of these tips work for RNs and allied pros of all stripes. That said, travel nursing is a great way to maximize your earnings. Travel nurses make 20% more than non-travel nurses on average. 

So even if you’re not able to take travel assignments, read on and see which of our tips work for you

Seven tips to maximize your pay as a travel nurse

  1. Choose a location that pays better
  2. Pick up per diem work while on assignment
  3. Take less desirable shifts
  4. Maximize your pay through travel stipends
  5. Pursue a new specialty
  6. Earn an advanced degree
  7. Get creative

Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips:

Tip #1: Location, location, location

It’s true in real estate and it’s true for travel nurses. Whether it’s a local shortage of qualified professionals or just a higher cost of living, some markets simply pay better.

Metropolitan areas typically pay better than rural ones. Non-hospital roles often pay better as well. 

Just be careful of the geographies that pay more because the cost of living is higher. You might wind up just spending that extra pay on higher rent and groceries.

A woman at an airport chooses her next assignment on her phone.
Choosing the right location for a travel assignment can drastically effect pay.

Tip #2: Pick up per diem shifts while on assignment

Picking up per diem shifts is a great way to maximize your pay during the coronavirus pandemic. Many cities are still under fairly strict lockdown mandates and your options for fun and adventure are limited.

If your contract allows for overtime, working an extra shift or two at your current facility is easy to do. But it’s probably better for your career to work with different facilities in your market.

Working extra shifts at different facilities isn’t just about more money. It allows you to grow your network by working with different staff and doctors. Not only that, you’re able to see how different professionals approach the same procedures and how they provide care.

Not every travel nursing agency works with per diem or allows their professionals to book per diem jobs while on assignment. Luckily, we’re not just any old agency. Medely’s digital platform allows you to see per diem jobs and travel assignments on the same platform – and book them with the click of a button!

While there are a lot of benefits to working per diem shifts while on assignment, there can be drawbacks too. It’s important to make sure you get enough time off and rest. Your patients deserve the best care you can give, not what little gas you have left in the tank.

A nurse updating a chart during a night shift. Night shifts can help you earn more.
Night shifts often pay better hourly rates.

Tip # 3: Take less desirable shifts

From TGIF to “Woo-hoo! Three day weekend!” most of us think of work as Monday through Friday day shifts. But weekends, holidays, and night shifts all typically pay better for the exact same work as a weekday shift.

Not everyone can make these less-desirable shifts fit their day-to-day schedule or travel plans, but the benefits are clear. If it works for you, these shifts can earn you an average of a few dollars more per hour.

Tip #4: Maximize your pay through travel stipends

Travel nursing typically includes per diem stipends for lodging and meals. These are generally tax-free up to a certain amount, which is set by the General Services Administration (GSA) and differs by geography and time of year. 

How travel nursing agencies approach stipends can be wildly different. While some reimburse you for your actual expenses, others will offer a flat amount lower than the GSA recommendations. Medely, on the other hand, offers the maximum tax-free stipend amount for your location on every assignment. 

Working as a travel nurse for the majority of the year means stipends add up quickly. Make sure you factor these numbers in when choosing who you work with.

Tip #5: Pursue a new specialty

It’s no secret that certain specialties pay better. CRNA and Nurse Practitioners are at the top of the list, but come with an advanced degree requirement. ICU and ER nursing traditionally pay well – but are an incredibly high stress environment. And any change in specialty will require you seizing the right opportunity. Yet another reason building your professional network is important.

But if you’re up for the challenge, the pay off is clear. The degrees, certifications and experience can add up to a specialty that pays six figures instead of five. Speaking of getting a new degree…

ICU RN checks a patient. Maximize your pay with a new specialty!
ICU RNs are among the specialities that pay better.

Tip #6: Earn an advanced degree

Earning a master’s degree is the first step to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). It’s also the way to move into teaching, research, or climbing the ladder in healthcare administration. Each of these career paths holds increased income potential, but they’re not for everyone. Not only do they require a sizable investment of time and money, but the programs themselves are rigorous and competitive. On top of that, several of these career moves will limit how much direct patient care you provide.

Tip #7: Get creative with facility and industry choices

Most people automatically think of hospitals, surgical centers, and family practice when thinking of nursing. And that’s certainly where many nurses work. But there’s plenty of work for nurses outside of that setting in both full-time roles and as side work. You can pick up shifts as an insurance nurse, tutor local nursing students, provide telehealth support, offer medical transcription or technical writing services, and much more. Not only can you earn extra income by working in these areas, you might discover something new that you’re passionate about.

Find the right balance for you

Whether you need a couple extra dollars an hour or you want to move into a new tax bracket – the right choice will be different for everyone. 

Some of these choices are fairly simple. Using Medely to maximize your pay through travel stipends or working in a better market is fairly low risk. Working third shift or eating up your time off with per diem shifts may help you meet a temporary goal, but may not fit your lifestyle. Working around the clock can quickly lead to burnout. Providing medical transcription may bore you to tears. 

So don’t be afraid to try something and decide it’s not for you. No matter your choices, money is secondary to your health, happiness, and the level of care you give your patients.