The number of lucrative travel assignments that grew during the height of the pandemic has started to decrease because of several factors, including the loss of pandemic-related federal funding.

Wages have lowered for travel nurses across the country by about 20% in the last year, which can alter the way travel nurses can provide for themselves, their families, or reach their financial goals. However, travel nursing wages are on average 62% higher than pre-pandemic levels, still making it a great way to make a living using your nursing skills. 

We’ve put together a guide on ways travel nurses can make the most of their travel assignments in 2023.  

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Invest in learning new specialities or a compact nursing license

ICU, ER, and OR nurses are some of the highest paid specialities in travel nursing. Investing time and money in becoming certified in these specialities might be worth the effort to secure higher-paying travel assignments. Here are some of the highest paying specialities for travel nurses according to Indeed.* 

  1. Intensive care registered nurse $142,136 per year
  2. Emergency room registered nurse $131,764 per year
  3. Operating room registered nurse $127,184 per year
  4. Labor and delivery nurse $125,707 per year
  5. Oncology registered nurse $122,707 per year
  6. Travel nurse $112,721 per year
  7. Hospice nurse $80,741 per year
  8. Home health registered nurse $74,686 per year
  9. Pediatrics registered nurse $69,122 per year

*National salary averages as of March 2023

If any of these options appeal to you, consider investigating the necessary certifications or what most facilities require for these specialities. Also, look into whether you are eligible for a compact nursing license. A compact nursing license can open up opportunities in other states without the need for a specific license for that state. 

Learn more about compact licenses on

US Map of NLC compact license states and statuses

Find the top locations to help optimize your travel nurse pay

During your job search, you can key in on certain parts of the country that may pay travel nurses more than others. Several factors can figure into why facilities will pay more for travel nurses, like heightened needs or a lack of success finding the right travel nurses. ZipRecruiter put together a list of the highest paying travel nursing cities in America.* 

  1. San Jose, CA $127,117
  2. Jackson, WY $126,179
  3. Oakland, CA $126,122
  4. New York, NY $125,863
  5. San Francisco $125,308
  6. Vallejo, CA $123,991
  7. Hayward, CA $123,336
  8. Seattle, WA $123,263
  9. Truckee, CA $122,908
  10. Santa Barbara, CA $122,339

*Annual salary averages as of April 2023

You might notice that some of these locations have higher costs of living than others, and that cost of living can eat into your earnings in certain locations than others. We encourage you to do research on the cost of living in each area you’re considering traveling to for a nursing assignment. 

Pick up per diem shifts in between assignment shifts

In between shifts for your travel assignment, you can also pick up per diem shifts as a way to supplement your income. Medely is a great way to find local, per diem jobs. The great thing about per diem work is that you can do it as much or as little as you want, allowing you the flexibility to use it on your terms. 

Be open to working holidays and weekends on travel assignment

Holidays and weekends are tough shifts to fill for facilities, especially holidays, which can create an upside for pros willing to work them. Some travel assignments will increase pay during these days to incentivize the travel nurse to take these shifts. Also, your options for facilities may grow if you’re open to working shifts on holidays and weekends. This approach can help you get into the facilities that you want in the locations that you prefer. 

Use Medely to find your next nurse travel assignment job 

Navigating the world of travel nursing can seem daunting, but Medely is here to help. Every travel nurse that signs up with Medely is supported by a healthcare recruiter and has access to our support team to help them finding housing and transportation. We also connect with travel nurses weekly during the assignment to ensure acclimation and smooth transitions.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we work with nurses to find them fulfilling roles across the country.