Travel therapists are therapists that get paid (great money) to work in 13-week contracts all around the country. We get presented with open travel therapy jobs and we get to decide where and when we work. However, if we want the best jobs, we need a good strategy to compete against the other travel therapists who also want the best jobs!
Travel therapy means you are an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapist, physical therapy assistant, or a speech-language pathologist that travels all around the country to fill open needs. You can travel as a new grad and you can switch between settings as you travel. You will get paid between $1500- $2100 on average. (I know that is a big range, but it’s true. The pay in Alabama will be very different than in California. But the cost of living is very different too!)
Your goal as a travel therapist might be different than mine. My goal was to travel to locations that sounded adventurous and fun! And to take 3 months off each year to backpack internationally. You might want to save a lot of money. Or stay within 3 hours of your home. Whatever your goal is, you will need to learn how to stand out. Then you can get the jobs that align with your goal. Many jobs are very competitive, but this blog will help you have the travel therapy career you want.
5 Insider Tips to getting the best jobs
- Don’t ask for too many breaks when you submit. If it’s between you and another traveler and you’re the one that needs a week off during the 13 weeks, the other traveler will win that contract every time. Try to take your breaks in between your travel therapy assignments and not during them.
- If you can – be flexible and willing to work weekends, float, be on-call, or take holidays.
- Have a great resume.
- I’ll say it again because it’s the most important: Be fast! You need to know what you want as a traveler and don’t overthink it. Submit quickly if you are interested in a job.
- Work with the right agency for you and your goals. Agencies are not all the same and many specialize in different locations. Don’t get stuck just working with one – you will miss out on so many great travel therapy jobs!
How to find travel therapy jobs
1. Job boards
2. Talking to recruiters
3. FB groups
Finding a job on a job board
Job boards like this one are great for research and browsing. It’s like how we scan Zillow for homes. You can scan a job board for job possibilities and create a shortlist on where to travel to. It will show you how much you can expect to get paid in each state, the hourly rate, and how popular a state is. Some states rarely have openings for any travel therapists. Some states might have a lot of jobs for physical therapists but none for speech therapists. It also changes year-to-year and even season-to-season so learning the trends is great for planning.
Insider Secrets: Job boards are a very hard way to get that exact job. Travel therapist jobs close within days and if it is great pay, within hours. Job boards are best as a research tool to learn about pay expectations and general trends. But it is challenging to land the exact job you see on a job board unless you know how to move fast after being introduced to the recruiter. You have to have your paperwork ready to go!
It is still a great idea to connect to the recruiter who has the job, even if you don’t get that exact one. The reason is, if you want to get to that city or state, you know that staffing agency has connections and relationships in that state. So by starting the relationship and getting your paperwork in, you will be ready for the next opening in that area.
Talking to recruiters and travel therapy staffing agencies directly
You do not want to talk to just any recruiter. You want to talk to the right recruiter who works for the right staffing agency for your goals. Not all staffing agencies have job opportunities that align with your goals. Each company will have unique travel therapy jobs. Making sure you are working with the right agency is the biggest thing you can do to get the location you want. The right agency might even change every 13 weeks. Expert travelers know that it’s OK to switch to different agencies as you need to. We also know that working with 2 to 3 agencies is always a great strategy to learn about more opportunities. If a recruiter tells you that all agencies have the same jobs or that it’s not OK to work with more than one recruiter at a time, they are not being honest.
Working with the right recruiter
It’s also important to work with the right recruiter inside of an agency you like. Recruiters (even inside the same company) can work in completely different ways. Finding the right recruiter for you who works fast and is responsive will make all the difference in being one of the first travelers to know about a great, new opportunity. This industry moves very fast! If you don’t have a recruiter that moves fast on your behalf, you can lose out on jobs that you could’ve easily gotten in front of the hiring manager for.
This is something that I can help you with. If you don’t have a great recruiter, or you’re not working with enough recruiters, or you don’t know which agencies have a travel position in the location you want to go to – that is exactly the problem that Nomadicare’s recruiter matching solves. It’s completely free for travelers! All you do is fill out a form to tell me about your goals and I’ll make sure you are with the best companies and recruiters for you. You can come back as often as you would like as your location goals change!
Travel therapy Facebook groups
As much as Facebook seems to be trending out of style, it’s still a very relevant place for our industry. This can be the go-to social media site for recruiters to post travel therapy jobs. There are also some amazing Facebook groups just to connect to other travelers, have community, and learn about the industry as well. I’ve made some of my very best friends by using travel therapy Facebook groups. Here are a few of my favorites:
Travel physical therapist (PT) jobs
Travel occupational therapist (OT) jobs
Travel speech-language pathologist (SLP) jobs
Travel physical therapy assistant (PTA) jobs
Travel occupational therapy assistant (COTA) jobs
Travel therapy community and learning group (For all)
How to submit to travel therapy jobs
As a travel therapist, there’s an element we have to account for: SPEED! Yep, travel therapy jobs can move FAST. This is something you will not be used to if you’ve only applied to staff or permanent positions in the past. Travel healthcare jobs close typically within a few days and sometimes literally within a few hours. If you are someone who is looking for very high-demand locations such as San Diego, California, or Austin, TX those will be the type of jobs that close within hours. This is also true for travel therapy jobs that are significantly above-average pay. The only way to get these jobs is to just be faster than everybody else and to have a resumé and experience that is impressive to the hiring manager.
Travel therapy job submission paperwork
This is the list of paperwork your recruiter will likely need to submit you to jobs as a travel SLP, PT, OT, COTA, or PTA. The sooner you get these to your recruiter, the better.
- Updated Resume
- Skills Checklist
- Proof of Licenses & Registries
- References: at least two names with contact details. They almost always should be from a manager and from a job you had within the last 12 months. This is the biggest one that can hold up submissions because the staffing agency is responsible for running reference checks before submitting you. Most agencies do not accept written references because they are too easy to fake.
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Proof of identity
- Proof of certifications
The smartest thing to do (when you have a recruiter that you like and who works at an agency that has jobs in your preferred locations) is to make it a priority to get them every bit of paperwork they need to submit you right away when a job opens. The rookie mistake that travelers make is waiting to give the recruiter the paperwork after a job opens. Many times you will be too late. Other travelers, who already had their paperwork ready to go, will be able to be at the top of the stack for the hiring manager.
Travel therapy credentialing paperwork
Credentialing paperwork is the paperwork you only have to do if you get a job offer. To just apply to travel therapy jobs you only need the paperwork that is listed above. But there is more paperwork to do before you can work.
The healthcare staffing agency is hired by the facility to credential us. This means making sure we are who we say we are. They have to make sure we have the skills that we say we have, and that we are safe to come work at their facility. We have to do things like taking a drug test, TB test and have background checks in between every single travel contract. Different healthcare facilities may have different requirements so each job you get might have a different list of credentials they expect you to do.
The most common amount of time between getting a job and starting is about three weeks – this is because credentialing takes time. The most common reason for not starting on time is that you didn’t get your paperwork done in time. Licensure is a big one!
It makes the staffing agency look bad to the healthcare facility when we don’t start on the date we said. It also reflects poorly on you as a traveler. It’s very important to do the credentialing paperwork right away (as soon as you get the job offer) because many components take time even after you’re done with your part of it, such as a background check.
- Copy of your Immunization Records: Most likely showing your HepB, MMR, Varicella/Chicken Pox, Flu, and most likely a COVID vaccine soon
- TB test: The TB test has multiple parts – one visit to receive the injection and a 2 day waiting period until your results can be read. Give yourself the time to get this done.
- Drug screen
- Background check paperwork
- Fit mask test (certain settings)
- Paperwork and forms: This will include signing your contract, signing up for benefits, signing HIPPA acknowledgments, filling out an I-9 and setting up payroll, signing off on the compensation package, health insurance, etc.
The travel therapy secret to success is simple. Stay organized.
Staying organized is the best way for travel therapists to work well with their recruiters and land jobs. And the best part for you is it takes away so much stress. Having all these documents in one place means you can do this work once! Then just share it with recruiters as you need to, instead of redoing it each time.
Creating your organization system
- Organize your files by the categories: Job Submission and Credentialing
- Label documents clearly (e.g. Resume, California License with date, TB test with date)
- Share your files electronically
- Keep everything up to date so it’s always ready to send
Cheers to you getting the (awesome) job you want!