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Comparing Apples to Apples: Understanding Your Travel Nursing Pay Stub

By: Alison Radcliffe, Recruitment Manager

As a travel nurse, you have options. Not just where you work but who you work for which can be overwhelming, and potentially get very confusing if you are hearing from more than one recruiter/company. It’s important that you keep the facts straight and make sure when you are job hunting and potentially comparing pay packages, that you are comparing apples to apples and asking questions!

Let’s look at some common scenarios.

Company A will present a base hourly rate that is taxable, we’ll just say in this example this is $22/hr. This is your hourly taxable rate. The company may offer a tax free daily per diem to you (if you are eligible/qualify) and present that rate separately—we’ll say $46 per day in this example. And then in addition to your hourly rate and daily per diem, you receive the company’s benefits such as the housing, travel reimbursement, license reimbursement, etc…

Company B might present the exact same job but they might be rolling all benefits into the “equivalent” of an hourly rate to help explain it. Let’s say they roll your hourly pay, daily per diems, housing, travel reimbursements, etc. all into one big pay rate of $40/hr (again, just as an example). The potentially confusing piece here is that your pay rate is not actually $40/hr and that will not be listed anywhere on your pay stub. Here’s what happens: Let’s say in this example if you want housing, the rate drops to $30/hr. Then, on your pay stub your taxable hourly rate will show $22/hr since the company has broken out any non taxable per diems owed to you, in this example $46 per day. So, your actual hourly rate is not truly $40/hr as you were originally quoted. Presenting this job as if you are making $40/hr is not completely accurate or clear. Yes, it’s the hourly “equivalent” of all the benefits you are receiving, but it’s not your actual hourly rate that things such like over time will be based on. The problem here is that $40/hr “sounds” much better than $22/hr, but potentially misleading if it’s not explained well.

The biggest piece of advice I have for travelers is to know exactly what your actual hourly/taxable wage will be and ask questions to your recruiter as to what exactly is included in that rate/package and how it is broken out – What will it look like on your pay stub? With more and more scrutiny from the IRS on legal tax advantage plans, you want to be sure you are working for a company that is in compliance with IRS regulations so that it doesn’t open you up for potential audits and issues either.

To sum things up, when you are talking to your recruiter about options, make sure you know exactly what you are getting and how it will look on your pay stub so there are no surprises to you about your pay once you start your contract!!!