The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started as a Travel Therapist

The ultimate guide to getting started as a travel therapist

Starting Your Travel Therapy Journey

If you are an experienced therapist, you’ve decided to take the leap from a permanent job to a travel job.

If you’re a student or a new grad, you’ve determined if travel therapy is the right move for you.

Now what? How do you get started as a travel therapist?


Step 1: Research and find a great recruiter and travel company.
  • Read reviews online and ask around.
  • Reach out to us for our recruiter recommendations!
  • “Interview” a few recruiters, ask them these questions, and find out which ones you like.
  • Find out about the basics of the companies including benefits, reimbursements, and pay packages.
  • Work with 2-3 companies at a time to give yourself the most options for the best jobs.
  • Don’t be afraid to fill out necessary paperwork for a few companies once you’ve decided you like them. This does NOT lock you in to taking a contract with that company. They need this information to be able to submit you quickly to jobs when the time comes (which you definitely want them to be able to do)!
Step 2: Make sure you understand tax homes and have yours squared away.
  • Read our post on tax homes.
  • Don’t skimp on staying within legal guidelines, should you get audited by the IRS!
  • Check out for the best tax info from tax professionals.
Step 3: Consider in what areas of the country and what settings you would like to work.
  • In many cases, you’ll have a lot of options, and should narrow down your search to a specific state or region, or narrow down by what setting you’d like to work in, or both.
  • Sometimes, you may not have as many options if you’re picky on both setting AND geographical region.
  • For some disciplines during certain times (currently, COTA’s and PTA’s), you may not have as many options across the US, so you’ll have to be less picky to have the best chances of finding a job.
Step 4: Think about how you’re going to tackle housing in each travel location.
Step 5: Consider how you’re going to handle insurance/benefits.
  • Do you need the company provided benefits?
  • Will you get personal insurance through the marketplace or a private company?
  • Do you already have benefits from a spouse?
Step 6: Figure out when you can start working.
  • Have an estimated start date in mind.
  • You’ll want to start contacting travel companies/recruiters at least 8 weeks in advance to get the process started with necessary paperwork, and then they can start your job search.
Step 7: Consider getting licensed up front in a couple states.
  • When it’s time to look for jobs, most positions will be “ASAP” start dates from the time you interview. So that normally means 4 weeks or less, which means under most circumstances you’re better off to have license in hand already.
  • Most often, there’s no time to wait for licensing, and you’ll lose the job to someone already licensed.
  • Some jobs won’t even accept you for an interview if you’re not licensed in the state.
  • You’re better off to risk eating the cost of an extra license or two to go ahead and have them and make it easier when you’re on the hunt for a job than to risk missing a week or more of work from a delayed license. Your travel company should reimburse you for the cost of your license when you take a contract in that state. Then, you can try to use the other license(s) at a later time.
  • Read this guide to travel therapy licensing.
Step 8: Let your recruiter know about your preferences and start date, and have them start the search for your travel job!
  • Once you’ve done all the aforementioned preparations, it’s time to have your recruiters be on the hunt for the right job for you!
  • Keep in mind, many companies may have the same jobs. So it’s best to have them tell you about the potential job and ask you before they submit your profile for consideration. It’s best not to let more than one company submit you for the same job.
  • Weigh your options if you’re presented with a bunch of jobs, because once you’re submitted for a job, things move quickly. If they proceed with an interview, then they’ll want a decision within usually 24-48 hours. This means that you generally won’t have time to tell them to wait while you consider a different job. Choose wisely!
Step 9: Once your recruiter(s) have presented you with some good potential job options:
  • Do some research about the facility and the area.
  • Have a phone interview with the facility.
  • Get an idea of whether you’ll be able to find housing in the area.
  • If they offer you a job, look at the contract offered and consider the pay package, cancellation policy, start and end dates, reimbursements specified, and time off requests.
    • You’re welcome to contact us and we’ll review potential pay packages for you and look for red flags for you.
  • Decide whether to accept the job!
Step 10: Begin your travel therapy journey!
  • Once you have a signed contract, it’s time to start making plans to pack up, move to your assignment location, set up housing, and get ready to start your travel job!

To get connected with the best travel therapy recruiters, personalized for you based on your preferences, fill out our Recruiter Recommendation form. This is a free service!

To learn more about the basics of travel therapy, check out our Travel Therapy 101 Series.

Still have more questions about the process to becoming a traveling therapist? Send us a message and we’d be happy to help you!

Whitney Eakin headshot

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC – Whitney has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015

14 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started as a Travel Therapist

  1. I just really appreciate your newsletter! It has been so helpful guiding me in this process! I am a 5 year perm, married 2 years and we are wanting to hit the road before kids come. I am scared to say the least! So thank you for your time and work with this!

  2. Great article guys! Just wondering how you navigate benefits such as health and 401K when you work for different recruiters ? I feel like I need to stick with 1 recruiter/employer to get the best out of a 401K deal.

    1. When on contract we always go with the health insurance offered by whichever company we’re working with at the time. That means switching insurance often if we change companies but really hasn’t been much hassle for us. You can always go through the marketplace or get an off market plan though. This article should help when looking at all the options.

      As far as 401k, it depends on how much you plan to contribute each year. If it’s less than $6,000 then you’re probably better off just going with a traditional IRA instead. Since our taxable pay is pretty low anyway the match doesn’t make a huge different and most companies have a long vesting period anyway. This article goes more in depth on my thoughts regarding retirement plans as a traveler.

      I wouldn’t let either of those things deter you from switching companies for better job opportunities or higher pay though!

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