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What License Does It Take to Be a Travel Nurse?

What License Does It Take to Be a Travel Nurse?

A career as a travel nurse can be exciting and fun. With short assignments and the ability to travel all around the country, you can gain valuable work experience while also checking items off your bucket list. It’s not all fun and games, though–travel nurses require the same education and licensing as any other RN, and sometimes more.


There isn’t one straight path to becoming an RN. A variety of programs are available, depending on what suits your needs. The most common are:

  • Earning an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) from a community college.
  • Taking part in a degree program at a local hospital (Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN).
  • Earning a 4-year degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN) from a college or university. (Note: many students who receive an ADN or ASN later choose to go on and earn their BSN when the time is right.)

It is worth noting that many hospitals and medical facilities now require a BSN for most assignments. As that trend continues to grow, it is certainly something to consider as you pursue your education.


To qualify to be licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN), you must pass the NCLEX. The National Council Licensure Examination is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. and covers topics such as safe use of equipment, informed consent, and lifestyle choices.

Any of the three degrees mentioned above qualifies you to sit for the exam. For tips on preparing for the exam, what to expect on the day-of, and more, visit the NCSBN website.


Many RN positions require several years of experience, but there are ways around that. Check with the career center at your school–many of them have agreements set up with local hospitals in which recent grads can be placed in entry-level jobs. In addition, an internship while you’re still in school is a great way to gain some valuable knowledge.

Another option is to apply for a temporary, or on-call, position. Many of these openings desperately need to be filled, and requirements are a little bit laxer. It may not be your dream job, but it’s a way to get a foot in the door.

Once you have a little experience under your belt, you can start searching for those travel nurse opportunities. This is where the special requirements come in: it is likely that you will have to apply for a new license wherever you go.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a Compact State, try to land your first travel nurse gig in another participating location. There are currently 24 states that participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact, and they each recognize the state licensure requirements of all other members.

Holding a license from a Compact State is a distinct advantage for travel nurses, as you can freely move from any participating state to another. Just keep in mind: if you move to a non-participating state, you will have to go through the process of obtaining a new license.

Becoming a travel nurse is not a difficult undertaking: aside from possible licensing issues, it doesn’t require much more than becoming any level of RN and contacting SOS Healthcare staffing to find you the right position!