How Much Do Travel CNAs Make?

How Much Do Travel CNAs Make?

Certified nursing assistants provide hands-on care to patients in nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties include checking vital signs, bathing patients, providing grooming assistance, and making notes about each patient’s progress.

Many CNAs work full time for one facility, but it’s possible to pick up travel CNA assignments to increase your income. So, how much do travel CNAs make? It depends on their location, level of experience, and contract terms, but a travel CNA typically earns about 1.6 times more than a CNA with a full-time, permanent position. As of February 2023, travel CNAs earned an average of $37.43 per hour, compared to $14.56 per hour for CNAs with permanent jobs.

Keep reading to find out why travel CNAs are in such high demand and learn what factors influence travel CNA salary levels.

The Role of Travel CNAs in the Healthcare Industry

When you finish your CNA training, you usually get a full-time job at a hospital or other type of medical facility. If you want to increase your income, or if you’re not keen on going to the same place day in and day out, becoming a travel CNA is a way to add more variety to your life. Instead of working for one facility, a travel CNA accepts assignments all over the country. These assignments last for a few weeks or months at a time, leaving you to pursue other opportunities once you’ve fulfilled the terms of your contract.

Hiring travel CNAs has two main benefits for healthcare organizations. First, travel CNAs help make up for staffing shortages, ensuring that medical facilities have enough staff available to care for patients. Second, travel CNAs help healthcare employers save money. It costs much less to employ a travel CNA for a few weeks than it does to hire a full-time CNA and give them benefits.

Factors That Impact the Salary of Travel CNAs

Several factors influence travel CNA salary levels in the United States, but location is one of the most significant. Some areas of the country are underserved, meaning they have a shortage of CNAs and other healthcare professionals. Facilities in these areas tend to offer higher salaries to attract skilled caregivers. Your level of experience also plays a role in determining your salary for travel CNA assignments. Generally, the more experience you have, the higher your hourly rate.

You may also qualify for a higher rate if you have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree instead of a CNA certificate or diploma. Additionally, employers tend to pay more for CNAs who have passed the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program exam. As of 2023, only 42% of states require CNAs to obtain this certification. If you live in a state that doesn’t require the NNAAP, passing it can help you set yourself apart from other candidates.

Finally, your travel CNA salary may increase or decrease based on the type of employment you choose. For example, general medical and surgical hospitals tend to pay more than home health care services or skilled nursing facilities.

What State Pays the Most for Travel CNAs?

Facilities in California, Colorado, and Washington offer the highest average salaries for travel CNAs. As of February 2023, CNAs completing travel assignments in California were earning an average of $1,792 per week, which works out to $44.80 per hour for 40 hours of work. The average travel CNA in Colorado is $1,492 per week, or $37.30 per hour. Travel CNAs in Washington earn an average of $1,280 per hour, which averages out to $32 per hour for a 40-hour workweek.

Even if you accept an assignment in a high-paying state, your travel CNA salary may vary significantly from one city to another. For example, the average weekly rate in Spokane, Washington, is $1,746, but it’s only $1,485 in Medical Lake, Washington, which is just 14.5 miles away.

Average Hourly and Annual Earnings of Travel CNAs

As noted earlier, travel CNAs earn an average of $37.43 per hour in the United States. Normally, you’d multiply your hourly rate by 2,087 to determine your annual salary. Because travel nurses complete short-term assignments, however, you may not work as many hours each year as you would in a full-time, permanent job. To calculate your annual earnings, multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours worked.

Here’s an example:

  • You work 360 hours at one assignment, 400 hours at another assignment, and 520 hours at a third assignment.
  • Your hourly rates are $34.52, $37.01, and $35.83, respectively.
  • Multiply 360 by $34.52, 400 by $37.01, and 520 by $35.83.
  • In this case, your annual salary would be $45,862.50, just over 51% more than you’d make working full time.

Comparison of Earnings Between Travel CNAs and Permanent CNAs

Travel CNAs earn significantly more per hour than CNAs in permanent positions, but you should know that many travel jobs don’t include benefits. Even if your agency offers health insurance, you may not qualify for paid time off, tuition reimbursement, dental coverage, life insurance, or other benefits typically offered by healthcare employers. Before accepting a travel job, crunch the numbers to make sure that the higher pay rate makes up for the lack of benefits.

Benefits of Working as a Travel CNA

Travel CNA benefits make this one of the most attractive career options in healthcare. The main benefit is flexibility. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to do the same thing day in and day out, taking travel assignments gives you the opportunity to work in different units and meet new people. As an added bonus, traveling makes it easier to expand your professional network. You’ll meet experienced CNAs, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals who can offer tips and advice to help advance your career.

Another benefit of taking on travel assignments is that you get to explore new places. Sure, you’ll be working, but you can spend your days off visiting museums, going to the beach, trying new cuisines, or viewing local landmarks. As you explore each city, you may even make new friends, enriching your life and helping you feel more satisfied.

Travel CNAs also enjoy a tremendous amount of flexibility. When you work a full-time, permanent job, you generally work 5 days per week, leaving just 2 days per week for running errands, spending time with loved ones, and trying to have a social life. Even if your employer offers generous PTO benefits, you still spend most of your time working. When you take on travel assignments, however, you get to decide when and how long to work. If you need a break after you finish an assignment, you don’t have to take on another one until you’re ready.

Tips for Maximizing Earnings as a Travel CNA

Once you know how to become a travel CNA and understand the main travel CNA benefits, it’s time to think of ways to maximize your earnings. Your first step is to look for assignments with sign-on bonuses. Think of a sign-on bonus as a way to increase your salary without having to do extra work. You get the bonus as long as you fulfill the terms of your contract.

Another option is to combine travel CNA work with per diem work. When you finish a travel contract, you can pick up some per diem work for a few months until you’re ready to get back on the road. This makes it easier to fill in earnings gaps between contracts without having to commit to full-time work. Once you have plenty of experience under your belt, you may also be able to mix travel work with teaching or training. The Red Cross offers classes to CNAs and other healthcare professionals who are interested in becoming nursing assistant training providers.

When you’re negotiating the terms of your contract, ask your recruiter about housing stipends and other perks. Some agencies are willing to reimburse you for your travel-related costs or pay for you to rent a furnished apartment while you’re completing each assignment. These benefits help you maximize your net earnings by reducing your out-of-pocket expenses. Consider scheduling an appointment with a tax pro to discuss how to reduce your tax burden and keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.

Is Being a Travel CNA Worth It?

Now that you know all the travel CNA benefits that come with each assignment, you may be wondering if becoming a travel CNA is worth it. Honestly, it depends on your circumstances. If you don’t mind working with different people and learning new policies and procedures every time you start a new contract, travel CNA work is a great way to increase your earnings. Travel CNA work is also ideal for people who don’t mind moving from apartment to apartment instead of staying in one place.

If you prefer a little predictability, however, you may want to look for full-time, permanent job opportunities. Earning less per hour may be worth it in terms of working in your preferred environment and feeling confident about your performance.

If you want to explore working in a travel CNA role, visit Wanderly