What Does it Take to Become a Travel Nurse?

Written by: Alex Brown
Published on: Oct 14, 2021

Traveling Nurse

Nurses play a vital role in a variety of settings: hospitals, clinics, at-home care to name a few. While many enjoy their position in a singular healthcare facility, some prefer to work remotely, providing care where it’s most needed. Such is the life of a travel nurse.

So, what does it take to become a travel nurse? Let’s look at a few basic requirements and one important consideration.

Travel Nurse Requirements

The fundamental requirement for travel nurses is an active RN license. As part of that requirement, a nurse must possess an associates’ or bachelors’ degree.


Travel nurses have a choice of degrees through which they qualify for assignments.

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) – two-year degree track offered by community colleges and some four-year institutions and focused on core nursing classes and clinicals rather than the leadership, research, and management tracks seen in other nursing programs.

Associate of Science Degree in Nursing (ASN) – Also a two-year program offered by vocational schools and hospital-based nursing programs targeting hands-on training and didactic coursework, with a focus more on clinical skills than academic work.

Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AAS) – a two-year program offered by vocational schools and hospital-based programs focused on a variety of nursing specialization areas, providing practical training in healthcare subjects such as pharmacology.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) – a one-year degree offered at community colleges that provides practical application lessons around patient care with a focus in biology, pharmacology, and nursing while also receiving hands-on clinical experiences.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) – a four-year degree offered at four-year institutions with a focus on nursing ethics, assessments, clinical nursing, evidence-based care, and psychology in addition to administrative courses.

Nurse working remotely


After graduation, travel nurses must take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN), which is required to become a registered nurse in the United States. In order to take the NCLEX, you need to apply for and receive an Authorization To Test, or ATT, letter from your state nursing regulatory body.

Additional Licensure & Certifications

Most travel nurses need certifications of Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) to sign on with a nursing agency. And if you’ll work within the U.S., you may also need additional licensure in the state that you will be assigned.

If you want to work in a specific unit, you’ll need credentials in that specialty. For example, a CCRN certification is necessary for critical care. Here is a list of all available certifications (as of 2021).

Nursing Experience

Most agencies require you to have at least two years of experience in your nursing specialty. Your clinical background will determine the specific openings you’ll qualify for as a travel nurse. If you want to work in a specialized unit, such as the ICU, an agency may require more time before you can work as a travel nurse in that field.

The two years of experience in nursing will give you time to receive a specialization in your area of expertise should you choose to take the certification exam in that specialty.

Taxes for Travel Nurses

Travel nursing requires you to consider the tax implications that come with the role. You will need to claim with the IRS a “tax home” by proving you have a full-time residence when you’re not working remotely.

If you don’t have a full-time residence when you’re not working as a travel nurse, you’ll claim a tax status as an itinerant worker, which means you have to pay taxes on all of your income, including any stipends or reimbursements. Learn more about taxation here.

The allure of becoming a travel nurse can be appealing, but it’s strongly encouraged to deeply explore the role before jumping in with both feet.