Step by Step Guide to Starting a Travel Therapy Contract

We often get asked “how do I become a traveling therapist?”

The answer can be as simple as finding a travel therapy job listing, applying, accepting the contract, & boom! You’re now a travel therapist.

But of course there are logistics & preparation that go into it as well to help you be successful on your journey as a healthcare traveler. We highly recommend before you plan to begin traveling therapy that you do your research to learn the various ins and outs, know what to look out for and questions to ask, and get yourself prepared before starting!

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Once you get a solid foundation and background to understanding travel therapy, have squared away your tax home situation, have started working with a few great recruiters, and are ready to begin your job search, things can move fast from there!

Here is a Step-by-Step Guide to finding travel therapy jobs and starting a travel therapy contract:

  1. Get licensed in the state or states where you are interested in taking a travel therapy job.
    • It’s best to apply for state licenses in advance before applying for jobs in that state because the licensure process can take a while.
  2. Have your recruiters start searching for jobs for you.
  3. Get your application submitted for one or more jobs.
    • When working with multiple recruiters, make sure not to get “double submitted” for the same job by different recruiters. You only want your application submitted by one recruiter to each job.
  4. Have phone interviews with the facilities.
  5. Negotiate the terms of your contract including pay, time off, etc.
    • You should already know at least a ballpark figure for the pay and other terms of the contract before interviewing, but now is the time to ensure everything meets your expectation and discuss/negotiate with your recruiter.
  6. Verbally accept the contract, then sign the written contract
    • It’s typical to verbally accept the contract before signing the written contract, but you should have been emailed the key terms of the contract before verbally accepting (such as pay, cancellation clause, dates, etc).
  7. Search for & secure housing
    • Typically you will secure housing in advance before you move to your assignment, although some travelers wait until they arrive.
  8. Complete your credentialing requirements for the travel agency/facility
    • The staffing company will provide you with a list of credentialing requirements, which can sometimes be extensive. This may include drug screen, background check, physical exam, vaccination/health records, CPR certification, licensure, and filling out a lot of other paperwork needed by the facility.
  9. Pack & move to your new location
    • Packing & moving will vary depending on the distance from home, weather in the new location, etc. But overall it’s best to learn to be a minimalist when it comes to moving to travel assignments!
  10. Start your new travel therapy job!
    • You’ll receive first day instructions from your recruiter. Each job is going to vary depending what they need you to do your first day/first week. Some contracts will have more orientation/ramp up time, while others you may start seeing patients your first day.

There is a lot that goes into being a successful healthcare traveler and having a good experience. You will learn a lot along the way, and inevitably make some mistakes too.

If you’d like our help feeling more prepared to begin your travel therapy journey, avoiding learning some things “the hard way,” and becoming a successful travel therapist, consider enrolling in our Comprehensive Travel Therapy Course. We’ve compiled all of our knowledge from 6+ years as travel therapists and mentors to teach you everything you need to know to be a successful travel therapist: from getting started, to navigating issues during your contract, planning future contracts, managing your finances, and much more.

You can preview the full course content here to see if the course might be right for you. And if you want to save on the course, you can use the discount code “Travel” for $150 off the regular price.

Best of luck as you plan to begin your travel therapy career! Message us with any questions, or if you’d like to get connected with some of our recommended recruiters — we are happy to help!

Whitney Eakin headshot
Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC. Whitney has been a Traveling Physical Therapist since 2015 & has mentored and educated thousands of current & future travelers over the years.

Travel Therapy Job Market Outlook for 2022

It’s a new year which is when many people start to think about making life changes. Our website traffic, podcast downloads, and email inbox volume all increase during this time of year as people contemplate leaving their perm jobs to pursue travel therapy as part of their new year changes. Because of so many people desiring to start traveling at the beginning of the year after the holidays, finding travel therapy jobs in January is notoriously more difficult than during the rest of the year. We weren’t sure if this would be the case in January 2022 due to the travel job market being so strong at the end of the year, but now the data is in. It turns out that there was absolutely no job market lull at the beginning of January, unlike most years, and in fact some of the companies that we work with even stated that the number of open jobs increased in January!

Is 2022 a Good Time to Take a Travel Therapy Job?

This is a question that we’ve received a lot lately. We’ve also had many current travel PTs, OTs, and SLPs reach out and ask if we think the travel therapy market will stay as hot (with tons of jobs and high pay) as it was at the end of 2021 throughout 2022. To answer these questions, we consulted the owners, managers, and senior recruiters at the travel companies that we work closely with. In total we got data on current job numbers and trends from about ten different companies to compile and determine the most likely outlook for the new year. Here are the ranges we received for the current open travel job numbers by discipline:

PT: 200-1,200
SLP: 100-1,000
OT: 100-300
PTA: 10-120
COTA: 5-60

You probably have a couple of questions when looking at these numbers: Why is the range so large, and how do these numbers compare to periods in the past? Let’s go ahead and answer those questions.

The reason the range is so wide is because we work with a large variety of travel companies from very small (1 recruiter) to absolutely massive (100+ recruiters). A consistent trend we’ve seen when looking at the data from this variety of companies is that often bigger companies usually have access to a larger number of jobs when compared to smaller companies. With that being said, it’s probably not a good idea to only work with the large companies because often smaller companies can pay better than a large company if they have the same job due to having lower overhead, and sometimes smaller companies may have direct connections with niche jobs that some of the larger companies may not have. We always recommend working with a few different companies to see a variety of job options, including at least one big company and one small company due to this. If you’d like our help getting connected with some recruiters and companies that will work well for your situation, fill out this form for personalized recommendations.

For PT and SLP, these numbers are at or near all time highs for the past 7+ years since we’ve been involved with the travel therapy industry. The high number of open travel jobs for PTs and SLPs is causing facilities to raise their rates in order to entice travelers to choose their facility over others, which is driving up pay rates.

For OT, PTA, and COTA, these numbers are still the highest they’ve been since the negative impacts of COVID and the Medicare changes (PDPM/PDGM) in 2019/2020, but definitely not at all time highs. OTs still have plenty of jobs to choose from throughout the country, but pay rates have not been increasing as quickly as they have for PTs and SLPs, and OTs may need to be a bit more flexible on setting and/or location than PTs and SLPs. For assistants, you can certainly find travel jobs right now, but it’s important to be as flexible as possible on setting and location in order to have the best chance of finding consistent contracts. Unfortunately with the number of assistant jobs being lower and therefore more competitive, we don’t recommend that new grad PTA’s and COTA’s pursue travel therapy right away until they get 6-12 months of experience at a perm or PRN job.

How is the Travel Therapy Job Market likely to Change Throughout the Year?

While it’s certainly a good time to travel, especially for PTs and SLPs right now, many people want to know how we see the job market changing over the next year. They want to be as sure as possible that they’ll be able to find consistent work for the foreseeable future prior to taking the leap into travel therapy.

From the trends we’ve seen as well as from the data and opinions we’ve received from our trusted travel companies, there’s no sign of the travel therapy market slowing down anytime soon. In fact, many of the companies believe that it may actually improve even further throughout 2022.

Why is that? Well, there are a variety of reasons. First, many therapists left the field during 2020 and 2021. Many therapists close to retirement age decided to go ahead and retire instead of having to be working during the pandemic. Some therapists with children started home schooling their kids instead of having to send them to school during the pandemic. Also, some therapists decided to go back to school, switch to a non-clinical healthcare role, or go into another career all together. All of that has led to less therapists overall working clinically than prior to Covid. In addition, with so many people in our population having continued deficits after recovering from Covid, the need for therapists has increased. In short, the supply of therapists is down and the demand for therapists is up and increasing quickly, which is a very good situation for travel therapists. We wouldn’t be surprised at all if both the number of open jobs and the average pay for travel therapists both break all time highs again in 2022. Looking at our Hot Jobs List, there was a consistent month over month trend of increasing pay rates throughout 2021, and there’s no reason to believe that this won’t continue for the foreseeable future.

What About the Impact of Omicron?

We were nervous about Omicron harming the job market when it was first being talked about back in November. We thought that there was a high probability of elective surgeries being delayed like back in early 2020, which causes less of a need for therapists. Fortunately, Omicron appears, at least at this point, to not be causing widespread cancellations of elective surgeries. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, things are far from certain and can change quickly, but as for now, we as well as all of the travel companies that we work with are optimistic that Omicron won’t cause a significant change in therapy staffing needs.

Should I Go For It In 2022?

The second half of 2021 was a really great time to be a travel therapist, and by all accounts, 2022 will be as well. Supply/demand dynamics are more in our favor now than they have been in many years, which is leading to lots of jobs options with great pay rates. We helped well over 2,000 therapists get started with travel therapy in 2021 and look forward to helping even more than that in 2022. If you’re reading this and deciding to take the leap into travel therapy but not sure where to start, our Free Travel Therapy 101 Series is the perfect place to learn the basics. If you want an in-depth step by step guide to not only getting started but becoming financially successful as a travel therapist, then Our Comprehensive Online Course is for you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us! Best of luck with your career goals in 2022!

Jared Casazza
Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT

Jared has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015 and has mentored and educated thousands of current and aspiring travel therapists to help them with their own travel therapy career paths.