What are the Highest Paying Travel Therapy Companies?

Image of 100 dollar bills with title "What Are the Highest Paying Travel Therapy Companies? Article written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT, Travel Therapy Mentor"

One of the biggest fears that we hear from new and prospective travel therapists who we mentor is the fear that they will be taken advantage of by travel therapy companies and recruiters. Usually this fear is related to not being paid enough for the travel job that they are accepting, and concern that the travel therapy company is keeping too much of the pay. Unfortunately this does happen often in the travel therapy world and it is a valid concern.

This concern leads to therapists trying to seek out specific travel therapy companies who will pay them the highest for each contract. So you might be wondering, “What are the highest paying travel therapy companies?” In order to help you answer this question, it’s important that you first understand where the money comes from that the travel therapy company can pay you, so you can truly make sure you’re comparing the right factors between different companies and contracts.

If you’re new to travel therapy, we recommend starting your research with our Travel Therapy 101 Series to learn the basics of travel therapy. If you’re ready to get connected with recruiters to help you begin your job search, we can offer you customized recommendations based on your preferences by filling out our Recruiter Recommendations form.

The weekly take home pay that a travel therapist is offered for a travel therapy contract is the product of many different factors, some of which have to do with the travel therapy company itself and some which are outside the company’s control. Of the many factors involved, there are four major factors that are the key players in determining pay:

  1. The first and biggest factor is the bill rate being paid to the travel company by the facility that the contract is through.
  2. The second factor is whether or not the travel company has to pay a fee to a vendor to access that particular job.
  3. The third factor is the percentage of the bill rate that the travel company keeps to cover their expenses and to make a profit for the company (often called their margin or overhead).
  4. The fourth factor is how the traveler and the travel company agree to have the pay package structured in terms of taxable hourly pay, stipends, and reimbursements.

Below we’ll delve deeper into each of these factors to help you further understand what goes on “behind the scenes” to determine your pay package as a travel therapist, and to give you an idea of how to go about finding the highest paying travel therapy companies.

Normal Travel Therapy Bill Rates and How They’re Determined

If you’re completely unfamiliar with bill rates then I’d recommend reading this article that goes in depth on this topic. Essentially the bill rate is just the hourly amount that the facility that you’re working at on an assignment agrees to pay the travel company for your work there. The reason this is the biggest factor in determining travel pay is because this is ultimately where the money that both the traveler and the travel company make is derived, and it can vary massively depending on the specific travel job.

For evaluating therapists (PT, OT, SLP), we’ve seen bill rates anywhere from $50/hour to $90/hour or more depending on the setting, location, and how badly the facility needs a traveler. How much the facility is willing to pay to bring in a travel therapist is largely a product of their profitability as a company and how desperately they need a therapist at that time.

For example, a home health company (usually the highest reimbursement rates for therapy services) in a state with already high reimbursement rates, who just had their only evaluating therapist leave, will likely be willing to pay a very high bill rate to get a travel therapist in the position quickly to fill that urgent need. Otherwise, they may not even be able to operate without someone to conduct evaluations. On the other hand, a pediatric outpatient private practice clinic (usually lower reimbursement rates and 1:1 care needed) that already has several evaluating therapists and isn’t in dire need of a traveler is probably going to pay a significantly lower bill rate. Obviously these two scenarios are the extremes, and most travel therapy jobs will be somewhere in between, but they illustrate the point well.

The specific travel therapy company you’re working with has little to no impact on these factors (setting, location, and how desperate the facility is to get a traveler), so they often won’t be able to make any change to the bill rate the facility is willing to pay. There are certain circumstances where the company may be able to advocate for the therapist to try to get the facility to raise the bill rate, but this would usually only be if the facility is already desperate and is willing to negotiate in order to get a traveler in there quickly. This would also usually only be the case if there are not a lot of other applicants for this travel job or if the therapist they’re trying to push for is clearly the most qualified applicant. Otherwise, if it’s a very competitive job and the facility has lots of great applicants to choose from, they’re not going to raise a bill rate for a candidate when there are other candidates willing to take it at the set bill rate.

The bill rate is an amount that’s negotiated between the facility and the travel company, and is typically not disclosed to the travel therapist. It’s really not important that you know the exact bill rate for each job, but it is important that you understand the concept of the bill rate and the factors that affect it, including setting, location, and urgency of the position, and how this might affect the amount the facility is able and willing to pay. Taking these factors into account can help you better put things into perspective when you’re presented with a pay package and comparing different job offers. For example, if you’re quoted $2,100/week after taxes for a travel job, then it’s very likely that job is paying a high bill rate to the travel company, whereas if you’re quoted $1,500/week after taxes, then the bill rate is likely on the lower end of the range. If you’re looking at different jobs in different settings and locations, such as a home health job in California versus an outpatient job in Florida, keep in mind that the bill rates offered for these positions may be starkly different. Therefore there’s no way that a travel company can pay you the same amount for these two jobs.

Vendor Fees and How They Impact Travel Therapy Pay

When a facility decides that they need a traveler, they often don’t want to or don’t have the time to contact several travel companies to tell them about the job and manage multiple potential candidates from each travel company. To avoid this hassle, many facilities will list the job through a database called a Vendor Management System (VMS). A VMS makes the process easier on the facility by handling the advertising of the travel job (making it available on a list accessible by many different travel companies) and choosing only the best qualified candidates to send to the hiring manager of the facility for them to interview.

For offering this service, the vendor charges a fee to the travel therapy companies who access jobs off of the VMS. This vendor fee is equal to a percentage of the bill rate paid by the facility, often 5% or more. This percentage comes off the top of the pay, thus affecting the bottom line for the traveler, and there is little the specific travel company can do to change it if they got access to that job through a VMS.

There are some large travel therapy companies who actually own the VMS’s in addition to staffing jobs themselves, so often they can get first dibs on some of these jobs and not have to pay the vendor fee, whereas once that job does get posted to the VMS, the other companies can have access to the same job, but would have to pay the VMS fee.

In other cases, a travel therapy company may make a direct connection with a facility in which they either exclusively handle the staffing of any travel needs that the facility may have, or they are among only a select few companies that have access to the jobs the facility is offering. This would be referred to as a “direct client” for the travel company. In that case, there is no vendor fee, because they are dealing directly through the facility not the VMS. If all other factors were equal, a travel company would be able to offer a higher pay package to the traveler for a contract with a direct client than for a job that they get access to through a VMS, since the fee is avoided in that situation.

Travel Therapy Company Margins/Overhead

All travel therapy companies have expenses and need to make a profit to stay in business. The travel company always keeps a percentage of the bill rate to account for this, but the actual percentage that they keep can vary significantly. A travel company with lower expenses can get by with keeping a lower percentage of the bill rate, while a company with higher expenses will have to keep a higher percentage to remain profitable. For this reason, some travelers choose to only work with smaller travel companies since their expenses are almost always going to be lower, allowing them to pay more to the traveler at a given bill rate.

Working with smaller companies for this reason seems obvious, but it’s very important to remember that bigger companies often have intangible benefits that can lead directly or indirectly to higher total compensation depending on the specific contract. For example, a large company might be able to offer something like guaranteed stipends (stipends that aren’t negatively impacted by working fewer hours in a given week) since they have a much larger financial buffer, whereas smaller companies often cannot. These benefits can turn what appears, on paper, to be a higher weekly pay package offered by a smaller company to lead to lower total compensation over the course of an entire contract, especially if hours aren’t guaranteed at the assignment.

This poorly understood concept in the travel therapy community often leads to travelers feeling like they’re being taken advantage of by larger companies when comparing pay to other travelers. This is why it’s important to understand all the nuance that goes into travel therapy contracts and pay, and why it’s often very difficult to compare pay to travelers working at different facilities through other travel companies.

Structuring Travel Therapy Pay Packages

Within your travel therapy pay package, how the money is allocated between taxable hourly pay, stipends, and reimbursements can have a significant impact on your take home pay (aka your after-tax pay on a weekly basis and for the length of the whole contract). How pay packages are structured varies from travel company to travel company, and always depends on how much is offered in the bill rate and the GSA guidelines for allowable stipends/per diems for the location of the contract.

In general, the more money in the pay package allocated to non-taxed stipends and reimbursements, and the less allocated to the taxable hourly rate, the higher the total compensation the traveler receives over the course of a contract will be. The reason for this is that federal, state, and payroll (half paid by the traveler and half by the travel company) taxes are paid only on the taxable portion of the pay. This is exactly the reason why a traveler will have a significantly lower take home pay rate on a local contract instead of an actual travel contract. A traveler taking a local travel contract, or a travel therapist working as an itinerant worker not maintaining a proper tax home, aren’t eligible for tax free stipends, which means all their pay is taxable. This makes tax rates on that contract higher for both the traveler and the travel therapy company, leading to a much lower weekly take home pay rate.

Some travel companies are willing to pay a very low taxable hourly pay rate for contracts so that more money can be allocated to stipends and reimbursements and lead to a higher take home pay rate. This is a strategy you can inquire about when presented with a pay package in order to see if you can maximize your after-tax pay. However, some companies have set rules that won’t allow the recruiters to lower the hourly pay below a certain threshold. There are pros and cons to consider if you’re specifically looking for companies that will allow you to have a lower taxable rate in order to maximize your after-tax pay. For example, a low hourly taxable pay rate means a lower future social security benefit (the majority of payroll taxes go toward this), a lower potential unemployment payment, and a lower short term disability benefit if needed since these are calculated based on taxable income. A very low hourly taxable pay rate could also lead to issues if ever audited by the IRS due to concerns surrounding wage recharacterization.

So while there are some ways you can work with your recruiter and travel therapy company to move money around within the pay package to maximize the after-tax weekly pay and total pay for the entire contract, there are additional factors you need to keep in mind when looking to lower the hourly rate too low. Take these factors into account when discussing pay packages with different companies and trying to maximize your pay.

So, Which Travel Companies Pay the Highest?

As you might have guessed by this point, this is an extremely difficult if not impossible question to answer since every contract is different and there are a lot of considerations to take into account. A very small company with low overhead, with a travel job through a direct client, paying a very high bill rate, with a very low taxable pay rate on the contract maximizing stipends, with no up front reimbursements is going to be able to offer the absolute highest weekly take home pay rate on a contract.

With that being said, those jobs are going to be few and far between and may not at all be what you’re looking for specifically in terms of setting and location. Those jobs also may not be in your best interest in terms of the low taxable pay, no up front reimbursements, and likely fewer intangible benefits offered affecting your total compensation. To complicate matters even more, a big travel company may be able to access a job without a fee paid to a vendor (and may have first dibs on a job before it goes to the other companies in the VMS), where a small company would have to pay a fee on VMS jobs, and in those cases the big company can actually pay more for the job even with the higher overhead costs.

With over 150 travel companies staffing therapists out there, if anyone tells you that their company or the company they recommend always pays the most for contracts, then they either don’t understand all of the nuance that goes into each contract, or they’re just lying to you.

Having talked to over two dozen companies and over a hundred recruiters, managers, and owners at each of those companies, we can confidently say that which company will pay the highest depends on your specific wants, needs, and risk tolerance as a traveler, and there is no blanket answer for all travelers.

We work with travel companies of all sizes whom we recommend to therapists based on their specific preferences. All of the companies we work with have their pros and cons, including differing pay rates on specific contracts due to all of the various factors that go into pay as we discussed above. Finding the best travel company for you can be very difficult as we have found throughout the years, which is why we spend so much time mentoring new travelers on this and helping them find the best fit for their individual needs.

  • If you’d like our individualized advice on companies based on what you’re looking for in terms of location, setting, pay, benefits, and other factors, fill out our recruiter recommendation form. Over the years we’ve helped thousands of new and current travelers get connected with recruiters and companies that fit them well, and we would love to help you as well!

If you have any specific questions, please contact us here. We love helping current and aspiring travel therapists with their careers!

Jared Casazza, travel therapy mentor and traveling physical therapist. Article written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT - Jared has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015. He is very well versed in the intricacies of the travel healthcare industry, due to his years of research, personal experience, mentorship of thousands of other therapists, and meetings with dozens of company owners, managers, recruiters, and leaders in the staffing indust
Written by Jared Casazza, PT, DPT – Jared has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015. He is very well versed in the intricacies of the travel healthcare industry, due to his years of research, personal experience, mentorship of thousands of other therapists, and meetings with dozens of company owners, managers, recruiters, and leaders in the staffing industry.

Travel Therapy Recruiters 101

An important first step to getting started as a traveling therapist (Travel PT, Travel OT, Travel SLP) is to find good recruiters to work with. The recruiter is your main point of contact when working with a travel therapy company and searching for travel therapy jobs. Your recruiter can honestly make or break your experience as a travel therapist, so it’s very important to choose good ones! But, how do you find them? And what’s the process like when working with recruiters? Let’s dive in to learn more!

What’s the Role of the Recruiter?

Most travel therapists work through a travel therapy company, aka a travel therapy staffing agency (as opposed to working as an independent contractor). There are a lot of advantages of using a travel therapy company, and overall it makes the process easier.

At the company, your main point of contact is the recruiter. The recruiter helps you get your profile/application set up with the company, walks you through the process, answers any questions you have, helps you navigate the job finding process, notifies you about new job opportunities, submits your application for jobs, and is there for you while you’re on contract to be a liaison for any issues that arise.

So as you can see, it’s vital to have a good connection with your recruiter(s), and to find the good ones! A good recruiter will be friendly, quick to respond, great with communication, very organized, trustworthy, honest, and knowledgeable! Check out this list of questions you should ask a company/recruiter so that you can choose the best ones!

Finding Good Recruiters

There are hundreds of travel therapy companies out there, and thousands of recruiters, so it can be difficult to narrow down the good ones! All companies and recruiters will market themselves as the best, but in reality not all of them are created equal! Even if you identify a company you like, there can be huge differences in the recruiters within an individual company.

If you just rely on the marketing of the companies themselves when Google searching or talking to companies at conference booths, you’re subject to them being very biased and trying to convince you they’re the best. This is why we don’t recommend going directly to companies you find on Google or at conferences and signing up on their email list. This is a sure fire way to get spammed constantly by their emails and get contacted by a bunch of random recruiters, whom may or may not be good!

The best way to find trustworthy recruiters is to go off recommendations from other travel therapists who have had good experiences with specific recruiters. If possible, you want to ask travelers who have worked with a few different companies and have been traveling for at least 2 years. This way they will have had enough time to know what to look out for with recruiters and will be able to give you the best advice.

Over the last several years we have interviewed dozens of companies and recruiters and worked with several different ones ourselves in order to narrow down some of the best ones. If you’d like our recommendations for recruiters, you can fill out this form, and we will take into account your personal preferences when recommending recruiters for you. We’ve found that different companies and recruiters work better for different people, based on what the individual is looking for, what’s important to them, and their personality!

Getting Established with Recruiters

We recommend getting started searching for recruiters at least 8 weeks prior to when you would plan to start a travel therapy job. If possible, you can even begin this process 3-4 months in advance. This will give you plenty of time to talk to several recruiters and narrow down who you like, then get a profile/application set up with each company. It’s important to have these steps done several weeks before you actually anticipate starting a travel job. It takes a little time to get your application set up, and you need to have this squared away so that your application is ready to go when jobs start popping up, so you can be submitted right away.

We always recommend that therapists work with 2-4 different recruiters, each at a different company. “Working with” multiple recruiters/companies means that you are keeping in communication with them, but you are not actually an employee of one company unless you are actively working a contract with them. The reason why you want to work with more than one is so you’ll have more job options available to you, as companies will not all have the same job options. In addition, it gives you an opportunity to compare offers including pay packages, benefits and more.

The Process of Working with Recruiters

When you have multiple recruiters, you want to be transparent and let each of them know that you’re also working with other recruiters. Some recruiters will give you some push-back on this and say that you only need to work with one, however usually the good recruiters will understand why you are working with multiple. This is standard practice, and it’s what most successful travel therapists do. It is always in your best interest to work with more than one recruiter/company so you don’t miss out on any job options, and so you can see the big picture by comparing offers.

There is a professional and tactful way to go about working with more than one recruiter. You want to have integrity and be a trustworthy traveler, so that the recruiters want to work hard for you. It’s important not to “pit” recruiters against each other on offers and not to burn bridges.

Generally, this is how it works: you stay in communication with all of your recruiters throughout each job search. They will present job options to you, and you will say whether you want your application submitted or not. It’s important to make sure that you don’t get submitted to the same job by two different recruiters. If two or more recruiters tell you about the same job, you need to choose right away which one you’d like to submit you for the job and tell the other one no. We usually recommend going with whoever told you about the job first, so you can take advantage of being submitted as quickly as possible (increasing your likelihood of landing the job) and to be fair to the recruiter who presented the job first. If two recruiters more or less tell you at the same time, you should have in mind already which one you’d like to go with over the other. Hopefully they can both give you a ballpark pay range when they first tell you about the job option, because it’s really too slow of a process if you have to go back and forth and try to find out who pays higher for the job and then make a decision. Waiting around to try to compare pay before submitting your application could result in losing out on your chance for the job interview!

During your job search, you might be submitted for multiple jobs with multiple recruiters at the same time. Then, if you get phone interviews and subsequent job offers, you’ll have to decide which one to take. Once you’ve accepted a job offer, you will respectfully let your team of other recruiters know that you’ve taken a job. Then, you’ll let them know the date that you’ll be done with that contract, so they’ll know a few weeks before that you’ll be ready to search for your next job. On the next job search, you go back to communicating with all of your recruiters to try to find your next job!

To learn more about why you should work with multiple recruiters, and how this process works, check out this article.

Summary for Finding & Working with Recruiters

The recruiter is your main point of contact at a travel therapy company, and your recruiters can make or break your experience as a travel therapist! We always recommend staying in contact with 2-4 different recruiters, so that you have more job options at your fingertips and can compare pay and benefits packages. It’s best to work with recruiters that experienced travelers recommend, so you can be sure they’ve been vetted! You can ask us for recommendations on recruiters we know and trust, and we will help you get set up with them!

There is some strategy and finesse involved when working with multiple recruiters, but once you figure out how to navigate this process, you’ll be well on your way to finding great travel therapy jobs and having a successful travel therapy experience!

Check out the rest of our Travel Therapy 101 Mini-Series in order to learn all the basics of travel therapy, including: pay, housing, working with recruiters, tax homes, and more!

If you have questions or are ready to get started on your travel therapy journey, please feel free to contact us or ask us for recommendations for our favorite travel therapy recruiters to help you get started!

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney Eakin headshot