A travel nurse career path can be rewarding and may offer professionals a high salary and several compensation benefits. One benefit that travel nurses often receive as part of their compensation packages is a housing stipend, which they can use to pay for lodging while on assignment. Understanding the components of travel nurse housing stipends can help you decide whether this is a career you might want to pursue. In this article, we answer some frequently asked questions about travel nurse housing stipends, including what they entail, and provide a list of some of the highest-paying cities for travel nurses.
What is a travel nurse housing stipend?
A travel nurse housing stipend is the amount of money employers offer nurses for their cost of housing while working remote assignments. This form of compensation helps travel nurses afford temporary housing while away from their normal residences. Stipends may also include funding for a nurse's travel to the assignment area and the food they require while living there. Nurses who want upgrades, such as additional rooms or appliances, from the services that their housing stipend covers may have the ability to pay for them individually.
The General Service Administration (GSA), which aims to ensure the basic functioning of government agencies, determines the maximum amount for travel nurse housing stipends that agencies use as a comparison when establishing their own stipends. The GSA bases these maximum amounts on location and short-term stays, which are usually more expensive than the actual assignments of travel nurses. Often, these stipends are nontaxable, meaning an employee doesn't have to report them on their taxes. These reimbursements are one benefit that travel nurses receive in their compensation package, and their agencies may list it as part of a blended salary model.
Related: Stipend: Definition and Types
How is a travel nurse housing stipend different from a per diem?
While a travel nurse housing stipend and a per diem are both compensation packages for those working on temporary health care assignments, they vary in the frequency with which employers provide them. Per diem, meaning "per day" in Latin, compensation packages often cover food, lodging and other living expenses, while a stipend is mostly for lodging purposes.
A per diem compensation system is the maximum daily amount that an employee can seek in reimbursement for expenses accrued while traveling on assignment. A stipend, however, is a fixed sum that employers pay nurses as a normal salary—either weekly or biweekly. Most travel nurses receive stipends, as their assignments typically last longer than a few days.
What are some benefits of a travel nurse housing stipend?
A travel nurse housing stipend is beneficial for health care professionals since it helps them find housing and fulfill rent payments. This can save nurses time and other resources when beginning an assignment in a new location.
Individuals unfamiliar with the area to which their employers have assigned them may find it beneficial to have someone else handle their living arrangements. This compensation package also makes it easy to handle problems with lodging that may occur, as an employer can aim to correct any issues or help you relocate if needed.
How much can I expect to receive from my travel nurse housing stipend?
The amount of money you can expect to receive from your travel nurse housing stipend often depends on your employer. For instance, some agencies may pay a lower stipend but higher taxable wages to nurses. The amount also varies based on the location of your assignment. Typically, the GSA determines maximum stipends based on the average cost of living in a particular area.
Another factor that may impact your stipend amount is the season in which you move to a location. For instance, many people travel to Phoenix in the winter due to its pleasant temperatures during that time of year, which increases the average rent during the winter months. Therefore, nursing stipends in Phoenix in the winter may be higher to accommodate that increase in rent. To earn more, you may want to work in a less popular area or learn an in-demand specialty to make you more marketable.
What are the requirements to earn a travel nurse housing stipend?
To earn a travel nurse housing stipend, the Internal Revenue Service ( IRS) often requires individuals to maintain the status of a temporary worker, meaning they work on an assignment for a limited period of time. It's also important to possess a tax home from which you file your taxes to prove that you're traveling for your travel nursing job. For instance, someone whose primary residence and work is in Chicago but travels to Denver for a temporary travel nursing assignment would receive a stipend that covers their travel to and housing expenses in Denver.
Is accepting a housing stipend more cost effective than finding your own place?
Travel nurses often have the option to choose between accepting agency-based housing or finding their own housing, which can help them earn extra money in certain instances. For example, if your stipend is $2,000 and you find an apartment that costs $1,500 a month, you can save $500 by choosing the cheaper option. However, it's important to remember that short-term rentals can be challenging to find and cost more than long-term options.
Another consideration is the potential for your assignment to get canceled. If this occurs, your agency may absorb the stipend funds, but if you find your own lodging, you may continue to pay rent and complete a contract with the apartment you've chosen.
What are the highest-paying cities for travel nurses?
A travel nurse's salary and stipend vary depending on their location, employer and other factors. On average, a travel nurse working earns an average of $109,199 per year. Here's a list of some of the highest-paying cities for travel nurses:
- Omaha: $115,601 per year
- Dallas: $115,797 per year
- Los Angeles: $121,012 per year
- Orlando: $121,658 per year
- New York: $123,404 per year