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.

Summary

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.

Net Take Home Pay Vs Gross Pay Quotes for Travel Therapy Pay Packages

It’s no secret that travel therapy pay packages can be confusing, especially for new and prospective travelers.

I’ve often gotten messages and comments from therapists not familiar with travel therapy pay saying that there’s no point in traveling when you can make just as much money at a permanent job. This is almost always just a misunderstanding in how the compensation is quoted, which is understandable because it is confusing. They look at a take home pay number for a travel job, and compare that to the gross pay they’re making at permanent job, and assume those two numbers are talking about the same thing, but this is incorrect. Even comparing pay between two travelers can be difficult due to all of the variables involved.

Travel Therapy Pay is Unique

While almost everyone in the regular working world discusses pay uses either an hourly pay number, or a gross yearly salary, those numbers don’t really make sense to use when talking about travel therapy jobs.

There are too many variables to determine a “typical travel therapy salary” on an annual basis. The biggest variable is how many weeks the therapist works each year, since flexibility to take long periods of time off and even semi-retire is a huge perk of travel therapy.

An hourly rate doesn’t make sense without knowing the stipend amounts and the number of hours expected or guaranteed.

As a remedy to this, in the travel therapy world, pay is almost always quoted in a weekly “take home” amount, otherwise known as the total weekly net or after-tax pay. This is the amount you can expect to see deposited into your bank account each week when working a contract. This amount typically includes both the hourly rate (minus taxes) plus the non-taxed stipends for housing, meals, and incidentals.

If you’re completely unfamiliar with how travel therapy pay packages are set up, I suggest reading this article or this article to gain a better understanding of this topic.

Unfortunately, while the standard is to quote a weekly after tax total, or “weekly take home pay,” there are also issues with this method.

Drawbacks of Quoting Take Home Travel Therapy Pay

If you’ve only ever looked at travel therapy pay packages, it may come as a surprise to learn that therapy is the only area of travel healthcare that commonly discusses compensation in terms of take home pay aka after-tax pay. Travel nursing and other travel healthcare disciplines almost always discuss compensation is a weekly gross (before tax) amount.

Why is that? It’s because take home pay numbers can also be confusing and hard for recruiters to determine accurately.

Think about it, for a recruiter to quote accurate take home pay for a job, they have to know details about your life to try to determine what your tax rate will be. They also have to know what benefits you’re going to choose that come out of your paycheck before taxes.

Here are some things that can cause take home pay to be different for one traveler compared to another:
  • Are you single or married?
  • Do you have dependents?
  • What is the state income tax rate in your tax home state?
  • Which health insurance plan are you going to choose?
  • Are you going to opt for life insurance or disability insurance offered by the company?
  • Are you going to contribute to a 401k plan if offered by the company?
  • Do you have any side hustles/other jobs that will impact the amount of tax withholdings on your paycheck?

Difficulty for Recruiters

Now, put yourself in a recruiter’s situation. What if you quote a traveler take home pay for a job assuming they’re single with no dependents, have a tax home in a state with no income tax, carry their own health insurance, and aren’t going to contribute to the company 401k plan, and then all of those assumptions are wrong. The actual take home pay the traveler receives could be much higher or lower than the quoted amount, but it wasn’t the recruiter’s fault. The traveler may feel like they were lied to, when in reality that wasn’t the intention of the recruiter at all. Even the highest paying travel therapy companies can run into issues with this.

You may think, “Oh well they should just ask those things before quoting a pay amount,” and that’s true, but some travel therapists don’t want to give all of that information to a recruiter who they may not even take the job with. Also for situations like with our hot job list or other publicly posted pay packages, the recruiters have no contact with the traveler before determining the pay package posted, so they just have make assumptions that of course may lead to inaccuracies for the individual traveler.

What About Gross Pay?

With all of the assumptions that go into determining a take home pay quote in travel therapy, you may think that quoting gross pay would be better. Well, yes and no. It certainly leads to less confusion since recruiters aren’t having to guess on your tax rate and the benefits you’ll choose, but there are issues as well. The main problem with quoting a weekly gross pay amount is that there’s no way to know how much of that pay is taxable and how much of it are tax free stipends.

For example, let’s say a recruiter quotes you $2,500/week gross pay for a travel contract. That sounds pretty good, but the amount you actually receive each week can vary a lot depending on if the taxable hourly rate is high or low. If the job is $20/hour taxable pay with $1,700/week in tax free stipends, then your weekly paycheck will be much higher than if it’s $40/hour taxable pay with $900/week in tax free stipends. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you’re trying to decide between two jobs based on pay, then a difference between $100-$200/week in take home pay could really sway your choice.

What’s the Best Way to Discuss Travel Therapy Pay?

Unfortunately there’s no perfect answer here. Hourly rates and annual salary are inadequate, and weekly take home pay and weekly gross pay both have drawbacks.

Take home pay quotes lead to unavoidable inaccuracies, and sometimes even hard feelings between travel therapists and recruiters. Gross pay quotes lead to less information being communicated, which can make choosing between jobs based on pay hard for the traveler. Gross pay also means a little more work on the part of the traveler to determine their own expected tax rate and calculate their own approximate net weekly pay.

Overall, gross pay is probably a little better to quote than take home pay, since many more variables are eliminated. But for whatever reason, that has never been the standard in the travel therapy world, and it’s hard to change what people expect.

I’ve seen some people in various Facebook groups claim that any recruiter that is quoting gross pay is intentionally trying to mislead or take advantage of travel therapists. This is almost never the truth. Usually recruiters will quote gross pay in order to avoid the inherent confusion that comes with trying to guess someone’s tax and benefits situation. Certain companies even have policies that do not allow their recruiters to quote the net pay due to inaccuracies and miscommunications this has led to in the past. You certainly shouldn’t be choosing to work with a recruiter or not based solely on how they communicate pay information. There are many much more important variables when picking great recruiters.

Ensuring Your Travel Therapy Pay Package Quote is Accurate

Whether you work with a recruiter who quotes you weekly take home pay or weekly gross pay, it isn’t a big deal if you’re a smart travel therapist that understands the limitations of each, and understands how to calculate your own pay package. Just make sure that you are clear on which way they are quoting the pay to avoid further confusion. If you have one recruiter quoting net and the other quoting gross, you will be sorely disappointed when you realize that the reason the gross weekly pay package was so much higher was that it was before taxes! So just have clear communication with the recruiter if they quote you a weekly amount: be sure to ask is this weekly net or weekly gross.

If your recruiter quotes you a weekly net take home pay number for a potential contract, you need to understand that this is just an estimate based on the average travelers’ situation and could be a little more or less for you based on your personal taxes and benefit elections. No big deal. The recruiter is probably doing their best to be accurate, but it’s never going to be perfect. Quoting approximate net pay can give you a good idea of a rough estimate of your weekly take home pay, which will make it easier for you to quickly compare jobs side by side. Once you’ve been quoted the approximate weekly take home pay, you can do the leg work to figure out a more precise weekly take home number for yourself before accepting the contract.

If your recruiter quotes you a gross pay number, no problem. It’s easy to get a rough estimate of the take home pay amount yourself.

Whether you’re quoted the net weekly take home or the gross weekly amount, you just need to find out how the pay package is broken down to run the calculations for yourself. Ask the recruiter what the hourly taxable rate is, and what the stipend amount is.

To get a rough estimate for my own taxes, I take the hourly rate and multiply by 40 hours, and then subtract 20% of that to account for estimated taxes. I then add in the tax free stipends and have a pretty good guess of what I’ll receive on my weekly paycheck. If I want to be even more accurate, then I’ll use a pay check calculator as discussed in this article. The calculators at Paycheck City are great for this. I’ll then subtract whatever I estimate that the pretax benefits I choose will cost (such as insurance premiums and 401k contributions).

So in summary, as long as you have a good understanding of how pay packages are broken down, you can get a good estimate of what your own weekly pay will be no matter whether the recruiter quotes it as net or gross. It’s very important to know that recruiters are not “good” or “bad” for quoting it one way or the other, this usually has to do with their company standard. A savvy traveler will not be fazed by it being quoted one way or the other. In fact, smart travelers will prefer to see the pay package breakdown and run the calculations themselves.

Being an Informed and Savvy Traveler

Something that helps significantly with getting accurate, as well as the highest possible, pay quotes is working with high quality and reliable recruiters at good travel companies. If you need help getting connected with some that will work well for your situation, be sure to fill out our recruiter recommendation form. We’ve spent years interviewing recruiters and companies to find the best ones for all sorts of different situations.

If you’re brand new to travel therapy and want to learn more information that will help you to be successful and avoid mistakes, start with our free Travel Therapy 101 series. If you want to take your learning to the next level and use travel therapy to become financially independent, then our comprehensive travel therapy course “Becoming a Financially Successful Travel Therapist” is for you.

Best of luck in your travel therapy journey!

Related Articles:

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.