Travel Therapy as a New Grad in 2023

Is travel therapy as a new grad a good idea in 2023?

In the summer we get lots of questions about whether it’s a good time to travel as a new grad. This is because most students graduate in May and take their board exams in either April or July, then plan to start their careers sometime between May-September.

PTs, OTs, and SLPs considering starting their careers as travel therapists has gotten a lot more popular since we began traveling as new grad physical therapists in 2015. There are a variety of reasons for this, including more exposure to the concept from social media. But, in my opinion, the biggest reason is increasing tuition costs, and subsequently higher student loan debt. With salaries for permanent therapy jobs remaining very stagnant, many therapists are very disillusioned with the debt to income ratio they face upon graduation.

Since almost everyone understands that you can earn significantly more money as a travel therapist, taking travel therapy assignments is enticing for those wanting to pay down their loans quickly or just invest money for their future. Some new grad therapists who are willing to hustle as travelers are able to make multiple six figures in their first year out of school.

The travel therapy job market can swing wildly from year to year, which can make a big impact on the feasibility of traveling as a new grad therapist. So, each summer is a good time to revisit this topic.

Is Traveling as a New Grad a Good Idea?

Before we get into the travel therapy job market and the outlook for travel therapy as a new grad in 2023, let’s address the elephant in the room. Is this actually a good idea for new grads?

Nearly every student considering travel therapy as a new grad is told by professors and/or clinical instructors that it’s a bad idea. This was certainly what we heard when we were physical therapy students. The interesting thing about this is that the majority of those opinions come from therapists who never actually traveled themselves. They’re usually just relaying horror stories that they’ve heard over the years about bad travel contracts. While there are certainly bad contracts out there, it’s easier than ever to avoid those contracts with all of the information available now.

With thorough interviews and asking the right questions, we’ve been able to largely avoid bad contracts in our years of traveling. After traveling as new grads ourselves and mentoring thousands of other new grad travelers, we’ve learned that the truth is that the vast majority of new grad travelers have a great experience, with there being many more pros than cons.

I recently wrote an article for the MedBridge blog discussing the three major reasons that new grads should consider travel therapy, which I encourage you to check out if you’re on the fence about pursuing this path.

With all of that being said, pursuing travel therapy right out of school certainly isn’t for every new grad. You need to be confident in your evaluation and treatment skills, and adaptable to new and changing situations. If you are uncertain or don’t feel comfortable in your final clinical internships, then there’s no harm in working for a year or two in a permanent position prior to embarking on your travel therapy journey.

If you’re on the fence about it, then this article should help you determine if travel as a new grad is right for you.

Pursuing Travel Therapy as a New Grad in 2023

The travel therapy job market has been pretty strong for the past two years, for both new grads and experienced therapists. Many therapists left the field completely in 2020 due to a sudden drop in caseloads, with many being laid off or fired from their jobs, and they then decided to retire or pursue other career options. Once patient census returned to normal levels, this left the healthcare industry with staffing shortages. The shortage of healthcare workers, combined with increasing demand in all settings as the population ages, has meant a huge increase in need for therapists.

We saw record numbers of travel therapy jobs at the end of 2021 and into 2022, which gave travel therapists lots of room to negotiate due to the supply/demand imbalance. It became common to see much higher pay packages during this timeframe than in prior years. At the end of 2022 into the first half of 2023, things began to stabilize, with slightly fewer jobs and slightly lower pay, but still elevated compared to the norm. All in all, the travel therapy job market remains strong with lots of open jobs for travel therapists and high pay packages.

To hear the full scoop on the current travel therapy job market, watch our most recent Travel Therapy Job Market Update from July 2023.

Because the travel therapy job market is currently very strong, this summer is a great time to start traveling as a new grad! Facilities are eager to fill open positions, and many will be willing to train and/or mentor new grads as they get started in their careers.

Differences Across Disciplines for Traveling as a New Grad

It’s important to note that the demand for travel positions is not the same across all disciplines. Currently, the demand is the highest for physical therapists, followed by speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapist assistants, and last being occupational therapy assistants.

With this in mind, it means that the disciplines which have lower demand will have higher competition among candidates for travel therapy jobs. This makes it particularly challenging for new grad therapists to out-compete experienced clinicians for travel jobs in these lower-demand specialties.


This is particularly the case for PTAs and COTAs who have the lowest availability of travel jobs. This makes it a lot more challenging for new grad PTAs and COTAs to find consistent work as travelers, resulting in unwanted and unpaid time off. It also means they may potentially be put into bad clinical environments, because they are desperate to accept any job that will take them.

Because of this, we encourage new graduate PTAs and COTAs to gain experience at a permanent job for at least 6-12 months, if not longer, before pursuing travel therapy. This will allow them to gain valuable experience and boost their resumes, making them more competitive for travel therapy positions. It will also allow them to build up some savings in case of gaps between travel jobs or unexpected cancellations because a travel job becomes filled with a perm candidate.

For a more in depth look at the travel therapy job market for PTAs and COTAs, I would encourage you to read this article from 2020 which discusses the obstacles that PTAs and COTAs have faced in the last few years with staffing. The job market has improved some since 2020 for these disciplines, but this gives a good overview of where the job market has been in the past leading up to now.

PTs, SLPs, and OTs

We do not have these concerns as much for newer graduate PTs, SLPs, and OTs, because the demand for these disciplines is higher, and there will be more opportunities to choose from. This means that the candidates are more likely to have consistent work, and they will also have the opportunity to choose among a lot of job options to find a clinical environment that is a good fit for them as new grads.

I will add that since the demand for OTs is slightly lower than that of PT and SLP, new grad OTs may have to be a bit more flexible on settings and locations when looking at travel therapy jobs. There are currently fewer open positions for travel OTs compared with PT and SLP, so the competition is slightly higher for new grad OTs.

Last, it’s important to note that when we discuss opportunities for “new grad SLPs,” we mean after they have received their CCC’s. Once an SLP has received their full credentials and is an SLP-CCC, the opportunities are numerous, and the new SLP-CCC will have many jobs to choose from. However, when SLPs are in their clinical fellowship year, travel therapy jobs are more limited. There are only certain travel therapy job opportunities that will allow the supervision hours necessary to complete the requirements of the CFY. I would recommend reading this article to further help you decide if traveling during your clinical fellowship year is a good choice or not.


If you’re considering travel therapy as a new grad in 2023, and you’ve determined that it’s a good option for you based on your own personality as well as the job market prospects for your discipline, then go for it! If you don’t like it, then there will always be permanent jobs to go back to. But, you may end up loving it and traveling for much longer than you anticipated, like we have.

Pursuing travel therapy provides a unique opportunity to explore the country and have new adventures, while setting yourself up for financial success in the future.

Before you jump in, be sure to check out the six ways to ensure success as a new grad travel therapist. Then, when you’re ready to dig deeper into your research, you can check out our free Travel Therapy 101 Series to learn all the essentials to beginning your travel therapy journey!

If you’re ready to get started traveling within the next few months, be sure to fill out our Recruiter Recommendation form so we can help get you connected with the best travel therapy recruiters and companies to help you along your way!

Best of luck to you, and feel free contact us with any questions!

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Jared Casazza

Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT – Jared has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015. He has become an expert in the field of travel healthcare through his experience, research, and networking over nearly a decade.

Travel Therapy Recruiter Pay: How Much Do They Make and How is Pay Structured?

Have you ever wondered about travel therapy recruiter pay? Recently we’ve gotten more questions about how recruiter pay works and what is an average pay range. Usually these questions come in two different contexts.

The first context is a travel therapist who is concerned that recruiters are incentivized to keep as much money as possible in negotiations for a new travel therapy contract. They believe that their recruiter is purposely trying to pay them less for each job in order to keep a higher margin on a given bill rate. There is a common conception in the travel therapy world that recruiters and companies are always out to get the traveler and low ball them. While this is true sometimes, it is certainly not the case for most of the best recruiters out there as you’ll see below, and we avoid these recruiters and companies at all costs.

The second context is a travel therapist who is sick of working clinically and is considering trying to get a job as a recruiter. They assume that recruiters make as much or more than they do and have an easier job. As you’ll see below, this is rarely the case, but some therapists certainly can earn more when making the transition to this non-clinical role.

Since we’ve interviewed more than 100 recruiters as well as dozens of company owners and managers to find the best travel therapy recruiters and companies to recommend to therapists based on their needs, we’ve gotten a lot of insight on all things related to travel therapy recruiter pay.

How Secure is a Travel Therapy Recruiter Job?

Recruitment is a competitive industry. We’ve seen many dozen recruiters come and go over the last few years. Travel therapy staffing companies are always on the lookout for talented new recruiters and now that many jobs are remote, they’re getting more applicants than ever. Some of the best and most tenured recruiters have very secure jobs; whereas, for new recruiters, it’s a tough sink or swim environment that doesn’t fit most people.

At its core, travel therapy recruitment is a combination of a sales and customer service/relationship business. Being able to sell a therapist on a particular job is important, but establishing long term relationships and trust is even more important for overall recruiter success. The relationship aspect of the job is where we’ve seen most of the unsuccessful recruiters eventually fail. Some travel therapists want a more transactional experience when working with a recruiter, but that isn’t the majority. Most travel therapists value having a strong and consistent relationship with recruiters whom they can trust.

How Much Do Travel Therapy Recruiters Make?

As you can imagine, this varies by a very large amount depending on the skill of the recruiter as well as on how their company structures pay. On the low end, recruiters are earning in the $40,000-$50,000/year range. On the very high end, recruiters can earn multiple 6-figures per year, and in very rare cases even reach close to half a million per year. Those top end numbers are generally only in really good years for the job market though, which ebbs and flows over time.

Sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and Payscale list the average pay for healthcare recruiters in the $50,000-$70,000/year range. In our experience, this is a little low with the average travel therapy recruiter pay that we’ve seen actually pretty comparable to pay that a therapist would make at a permanent job, in the $70,000-$80,000/year range.

While this is really good pay for a job that doesn’t require a graduate school degree, the job demands are much different than that of a therapist, so making the decision to go from clinical work to a recruiter role should be made with care. It certainly isn’t normal for a recruiter to earn as much as the average travel therapist, especially in their first few years in the industry when they’re learning the ropes and building relationships.

How is Travel Therapy Recruiter Pay Structured?

Every company is different, and there is a lot of variability here. In general though, most companies pay their recruiters a base pay amount, and then pay them a tiered commission based on a combination of number of Travelers on Assignment (TOA) and the average margin they keep for the company on assignments. For example, a recruiter may earn a base pay of $40,000/year and then earn commissions something like this. 1-5 TOA: 10% of margin, 6-20 TOA: 15% of margin, 21+ TOA: 20% of margin.

Depending on the company, base pay may either be higher or lower, but the commission structure is inversely related to the base pay. That is, a company with a lower base pay usually has higher commission earning potential, and a company with a high base pay usually has a lower commission earning potential.

There are pros and cons of each depending on the individual recruiter. For a top producer, a low base pay and high commission potential is preferred, whereas for a less productive recruiter, they come out ahead with a higher base pay. For a new recruiter, the safety of a higher base pay is often preferable since their commission success is unknown at that time.

There are also companies that pay a base rate and then give the recruiter a flat fee for each new contract they book. In that case, the pay the recruiter receives has nothing to do with TOA or with average margin, although there are certainly standards that must be met to remain employed.

Being a Successful Recruiter

There are some traits that we’ve seen consistently from the top recruiters in the industry. They focus on building relationships over one off transactions (more on this below); they’re great with communication and respond to concerns ASAP; they’re empathetic and can relate to issues that travel therapists face on contracts; and they’re very hard workers. Responding quickly is important to let the traveler know that you’re working on an issue even if you don’t have an answer right away. A little empathy can go a long way toward making the therapist understand that you care how they’re doing. And the top recruiters in the industry work very hard and long hours. All of our top 5 recruiters last year were working 50-60 hours per week or more to stay on top of everything.

Relationships Over Transactions

Like I mentioned above, being a travel therapy recruiter isn’t for everyone, which means that there is a lot of turnover in the industry. Many recruiters are pulled in by the allure of potentially earning a very high income but then find the job is more demanding than they thought. As a travel therapist, this can make finding the right recruiters for you difficult. Many new travelers and recruiters underestimate the impact of building relationships and look at finding contracts through a transactional lens. This is a mistake and why many recruiters don’t make it past the first year in the industry.

For a recruiter, it can be tempting to try to keep higher margins on contracts to make higher commissions while churning and burning therapists, but this doesn’t work long term. Recruiters and companies that use that strategy have trouble retaining travelers over the long term, especially now with so much pay comparison between travelers on social media. Developing a reputation of paying low in an industry so small makes it hard to be successful. Paying as high as possible and keeping travelers happy is a much better way to keep a travel therapist working with you for years instead of just a contract or two. This continued relationship ultimately means more money for the recruiter and the company in the long run, especially in a world of tiered commission structures based on TOA.

Travel Therapist Relationship Benefits

For travelers, your relationship with your recruiter is very important because if your recruiters like you, they can go above and beyond to help you and that can be vital in an industry filled with uncertainty. This can be in the form of cold calling facility in competitive locations to drum up contracts for you; reducing margin below normal levels to retain you for your next contract; submitting you to a job over other travelers; or dropping everything to get issues cleared up right away. These are things that just won’t happen if you’re jumping from recruiter to recruiter and company to company each contract, burning bridges along the way. We’ve had candid conversations with enough recruiters now to understand that they’ll always give priority to their loyal travelers and do everything they can to keep them happy.

A good relationship between a traveler and recruiter is mutually beneficial. The recruiter has the comfort of knowing that the traveler won’t just jump ship for an extra $20/week in a competitive job environment and that retaining travelers for many contracts will ultimately make them more money in the long term. The traveler has the comfort of knowing that the recruiter will always quote them the highest possible pay package and have their back when any issues arise with a facility. This is definitely what we’ve grown to value more and more in our relationships with recruiters the longer we’ve traveled.


Travel therapy recruiters can earn a lot of money, but only a small percentage of recruiters will make more than an average travel therapist. Recruiting is a demanding job and the highest earning recruiters often work very long hours. Some therapists successfully make the transition to recruiter, but just as many try and fail because it’s not an easy job and is a completely different skillset.

The best and highest earning recruiters in the industry focus on paying fairly to keep high numbers of travelers on assignment, rather than gouging travelers by keeping the highest possible margin on contracts. The travel therapy world is small, so word gets around, which means the recruiters and companies taking advantage of travelers usually don’t last long.

If you’re a great recruiter reading this and want to work with us, we’d love to have a conversation. We’re constantly adding and subtracting recruiters based on feedback and performance.

If you’re a traveler that wants help finding recruiters you can build a relationship with and count on, fill out our recruiter recommendation form and we’ll set you up with some that will best fit your needs.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments!

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Jared Casazza

Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT – Jared has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015. He has become an expert in the field of travel healthcare through his experience, research, and networking over nearly a decade.