Salary or Location: How Should You Choose Future Assignments

nurse tips for choosing between salary and locationBy Leigh Morgan, Contributor
One of the biggest benefits of travel nursing is that you get to accept short-term assignments rather than working at the same place year in and year out. As a travel nurse, you may even receive multiple offers at the same time, leaving you to weigh the pros and cons of each offer to decide which one you should accept. If you aren't sure if you should prioritize salary or location, read on to find out what you need to consider when choosing job assignments.

Cost of living

Prices vary from one state to another, making the cost of living high in some areas and low in others. A dollar stretches much further in a state with a low cost of living, such as Alabama or Kansas, than it does in a state with a high cost of living, such as California or New York. Cost of living affects everything from how much you pay for rent to how much it costs to buy food, according to Michael B. Sauter of USA Today.
If you're ready for a new challenge, browse the Onward Healthcare job board to find current travel nursing opportunities.

Housing options

Housing is probably one of the most expensive items in your monthly budget, so consider your housing options carefully when choosing job assignments. Although an assignment in Hawaii may conjure up images of lying on a beach when you're off duty, Hawaii has the highest housing costs in the United States. In 2017, the median home value in Hawaii was $617,400, according to Emmie Martin of CNBC. Alabama, on the other hand, had a median home value of $141,300 during the same year.
If you rent, you can be a little more flexible, but rental costs also vary drastically from one state to the next. Residents of the District of Columbia pay an average of $2,553 per month, while Arkansas renters pay an average of just $954 per month, reports Lilly Price of USA Today.

Financial goals

The National Endowment for Financial Education recommends setting SMART financial goals. The goals you set should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, which means they should have deadlines attached to them. "Save money" is a vague goal without a deadline or any way to measure your progress. A better financial goal would be to save $3,000 in a bank account by the end of the current year.
Once you have your financial goals in mind, you can decide whether you want to pick your next assignment based on salary or location. If your goal is to save $10,000 within one year, it might make sense to choose the assignment that offers the highest salary. You'll be able to save up as much money as possible in a short amount of time. If you are focused on something like increasing your credit score, however, you may want to choose an assignment in a location you've always wanted to visit.

Current financial situation

If you're wondering which job offer to choose, don't forget to account for your current financial situation. The amount of debt you have, how much money you have in the bank and how much money you spend each month are all important factors to consider before you make a decision.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that total household debt in the United States increased to $13.86 trillion in the second quarter of 2019. If you're one of the millions of people who have thousands of dollars in debt, you may want to choose the job with the highest salary instead of making a decision based on location.

Local amenities

Sometimes, it makes sense to pick a job based on the location rather than the salary. If you're traveling alone, you may want to accept an assignment in a city known for its restaurants and nightlife. When traveling with family members, consider the quality of local school districts and the number of job opportunities available to your spouse or significant other. Your personal preferences are also important. If you love the beach, accepting an assignment in the middle of a desert probably isn't going to make you happy.
As you gain more travel nursing experience, you are likely to receive even more offers than you do now. If you're wondering how to choose the right job, keep factors such as cost of living, housing options and your financial situation in mind. Local amenities and personal preferences are also important to consider when determining whether to pick the job with the highest salary or the best location.

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