Thinking about Travel PT as a new grad? – Part 2

After one or more of your interviews are completed and a facility wants to hire you, you should receive an offer from your recruiter. They will tell you a dollar amount that will be your “weekly take home pay” on your paycheck, after taxes. This is the amount that you can expect between your untaxed stipend (housing, food, and incidentals) as well as your taxable hourly pay. In our experience so far, an average weekly take-home pay is between $1400-$1600 as a new grad, but we have heard of some offers as high as $1800/week. This is a very exciting time, but it is also dangerous if you don’t know what to watch out for. This is where having a good recruiter will help tremendously. It is in your company’s (travel company) best interest to give you the lowest taxable pay possible while giving you a higher not taxable pay. The reason for this is that they pay taxes on the taxable amount that you earn just like you do. At first this may seem like a good thing for you because more untaxed pay means a higher “take home pay,” but not so fast.

I know how frustrating it can be to stare at six figures of student load debt at the completion of your degree. However, accepting a taxable rate that is too low can be considered “wage recharacterization” if you are ever audited by the IRS. Basically this means that you are taking a taxable rate that is lower than you deserve for your education and skill set in order to get more untaxed money. In order to avoid this, you must only accept a taxable hourly rate that is “reasonable” for your occupation. Since there is no definite number here, this can be a tricky situation and up to interpretation, but I would recommend not taking anything below $20/hr taxable pay because that is probably asking for trouble. In addition to paying attention to your hourly taxable pay, there are also stipulations to consider regarding eligibility for an untaxed stipend. This is a rather lengthy subject, so I will cover this topic in a later post, but just be aware that you aren’t automatically eligible for untaxed money and there is some grey area.

Now, hopefully you have accepted an offer in your ideal setting and in a location that you are comfortable with. You’re probably wondering how you go about finding housing, and you’ve probably also heard that the travel company will do this for you. This is true, the travel company will find housing for you, but in most cases you would be foolish to go about finding housing in this manner. The travel company will take your housing stipend and place you somewhere within driving distance to the clinic. Usually this will be some sort of corporate housing or extended stay motel. The problem with this is that your housing stipend may be quite a bit higher than the actual cost of the accommodation. I ran the numbers on my first contract and found that by allowing the company to find housing for me, I would basically be paying over $2000/month for an extended stay motel. I could go to this same extended stay motel and pay $1,200/month if I did it on my own. Financially, finding your own housing is by far the better choice, and I would highly recommend it in most cases. I would love to lie and say that this is an easy process and it’s no problem finding somewhere to live, but that is not the case. Whitney and I scoured Craiglist and called every apartment complex (about 40-50) within driving distance of our first assignments and found absolutely nothing after 12 hours of non-stop calling. Very few apartment complexes want to rent short term and usually if they do, it is corporate housing and insanely expensive.

We eventually found a place to live on Craigslist but it was a furnished room in someones home. It was an overall positive experience, but adapting to someone else’s rules and schedule can be difficult as an adult and not something that I wish to do long term. Finding an apartment in a complex comes with its own set of problems. Setting up and disconnecting utilities and internet can be a hassle, and having to move your own furniture or rent furniture is no fun. There is also an opportunity cost associated with the amount of time it takes to move. It may take you a week to pack all of your belongings, drive to the new location, and then unpack. As a travel PT, there is very little, if any, paid vacation time, so any down time means lost wages and this was unacceptable for Whitney and me. If I’m going to take time off of work, I want it to be vacation time, not packing and moving time. This is the point that we decided that traveling in a camper was by far the best option for us. We can come home from work on Friday at the end of a contract, hook up the fifth wheel and be on the road to the next location that same night if we wish to do it that way. However, we understand that traveling by RV may not be the best option for everyone. We know other travelers who have either rented furnished places, rented or bought Goodwill furniture upon arrival, or pulled a small U-haul type trailer with a few pieces of furniture with them. There are definitely options, and you can decide which one works best for you. I will post more later on the topic of searching for and buying an RV for those that are interested in that route.

Once you have moved into your new place, hopefully close to the clinic you’re working at, the easy part begins. Go to work, do what you have been learning to do for the past three years, make money, and enjoy local attractions and scenery on the weekends. After a few weeks, you should have an idea about how well you like the clinic and if you would be willing to extend your contract for another few months when it ends or if you will be ready to leave ASAP. Be aware, some companies will have an option in the first 1-2 weeks to cancel your contract if it’s not working out. After that, once you are full swing into the contract, there is typically a policy that you, or the clinic, can end the contract early by giving a 30 day notice (i.e. if they hire a full timer and want to end your contract early, or you find a new place you want to go sooner). Make sure this is written into your contract, so they can’t end your contract without notice (or very short notice). If you are lucky enough to want to stay for an additional period of time (and the clinic needs you for longer), as has happened with my assignments so far, that is great news! You don’t have to go through the whole process of finding a new job and a new place to live, and you get to avoid that opportunity cost that is associated with moving that I talked about earlier. We are hoping to stay in each place we go for at least 6 months if possible, in order to avoid the moving process so often.

In the first 30 days of your contract, you need to be sure to sign up for benefits including medical, dental, and vision. Your recruiter should be able to help you with this if you have questions. Depending on the travel company, there are various additional benefits including: License cost reimbursement, Travel reimbursement (gas for traveling to a new place), 401k matching, referral bonuses, etc.

There is probably more about the process that I forgot to include but I hope that this is at least a starting point and helpful for some. I will be posting more about our specific experiences in future posts. Send me a message or comment below if you would like the contact information of the recruiters/companies that I would recommend. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!
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22 thoughts on “Thinking about Travel PT as a new grad? – Part 2

  1. Have you worked in California or know how long it takes as a new grad PT to get your license? It took me 4 months to get my RN license transferred there; my husband will be graduating in November from PT school and we would like to start doing travel in California, but not if the process takes as long as it did for me.

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  2. Is an outpatient setting hard to come by with travel agencies? I’ve heard this quite often but I’ve done my own research and it seems like there is always a need.

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    • If you’re traveling by yourself, outpatient is easy to find. Traveling as a pair… Nothing wanting outpatient… Is a little more difficult. This is the situation that Whitney and I are in. Also, some travel companies have more jobs than others but the one we have been working with lately seems to have the most.

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      • So far we have spoken to several companies/recruiters but there are two that I would highly recommend. My current contract is through MedTravelers. My recruiter has been awesome, she’s down to earth and easy to talk to. She had info on a lot of jobs and got me a very good paying contract. Jessica.Hall@medtravelers.com
        The other company is Prime Healthcare staffing. Elizabeth Lindsay is my recruiter and shes probably the most helpful person I’ve ever met and I ended up not even taking a job from them. She knows a lot and is willing to go above and beyond to help however she can including texting about oppertunities in the evening and at night when shes not even at work. elindsay@primehcs.com
        If you contact either of them, please mention my name and I’ll get a bonus for referring you if you complete a contract with them. Let me know if you have any questions about anything!

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  3. Hey! I love the blog! I’m seriously considering travel PT with my SO after we graduate and am trying to learn as much as I can beforehand. So I really appreciate your insight and advice! Would either of you be willing to write a post on monthly expenses for RV living, specifically monthly RV parking spot rates and ease of finding affordable spots? I’m trying to crunch the numbers and see if living out of an RV/tiny home would be less expensive than finding apartments/rooms for rent on Airbnb. Thank you both so much!

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    • Hey! I think that is an awesome idea! Yeah we could write something about it but it will depend highly on where you are in the country as to the costs. I can tell you that our costs are more than twice as much in eastern MA as they were in Southwestern VA. I can pretty much tell you without a doubt though that it will be much cheaper than AirBnB or an extended stay motel. I considered every option heavily before making our choice and, cost wise, there was no better option. If you would like some specific numbers, email me at jcasazza@radford.edu and I’ll tell you the campground rates compared to the other options we considered.

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  4. First, as a SPT highly considering travel PT upon graduation, I very much appreciate your blog.

    Secondly, would you mind sharing what states you have been to thus far and a glimpse of what the different state licensing looks like?

    Thank you for your insight!

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    • Thank you for reading! So far we have done three contracts in VA and two contracts in MA. We are planning to head to NC next month and then GA after that. We are currently licensed in VA and MA but have already submitted our NC license and are just waiting for everything to go through. The licensing process is a hassle for most states but some travel companies will do some of the work for you to make it less of a burden. Every state that we have submitted applications for so far require board exam score, license verification from the state(s) you are currently licensed in, PT school transcripts, and an application fee. All of these requirements involve some sort of fee. Some states also require an exam regarding their state laws to make sure that you have reviewed them. I hope that helps some. I also wrote a post on finding jobs and getting licensed. https://fifthwheelpt.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/our-experience-with-finding-travel-jobs/

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      • That is great information! When going to a new state, how far in advanced have you been/do you recommend starting the new state licensure process?

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    • Thanks! I’m glad you found it helpful. We started looking for jobs in the middle of May when we graduated. Whitney started the first week of June and I started two weeks after her. It only took a few weeks but it depends on what’s available in the state you want to work in.

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  5. Hello! I was wondering if you would share the recruiters/companies you used when you started out as a new grad? Me and my boyfriend are about to begin applying for travel PT and it would be a ton of help. One question, did you and Whitney use the same recruiter and company or did you have your own?
    Thanks!

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    • Hey, Danielle! I’ll send you an email with the information regarding the recruiters we would recommend. Whitney and I have actually done it both ways. There have been times when we work with the same company and then other times where our contracts are through different companies. Someone one company will have a job that another one doesn’t so we ask around and find the jobs that work best for us.

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      • Would you mind emailing me as that info as well? I am researching to get started in June of this year. Also do you carry your own insurance in order to work with more than one company? And if so any advice on that?

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      • Sure, what’s your email address? We don’t carry our own insurance. Pretty much every travel company offers health insurance on day 1 so it doesn’t matter if you change companies, the only time you wouldn’t be covered is between assignments when you’re switching companies. Between assignments while staying with the same company, as long as the new assignment starts within 30 days you would be covered, as least with the companies I’ve talked to.

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