What To Know About Travel Therapy As A New Grad

This post was originally published on April 10, 2016 and updated on March 25, 2019.

Have you been strongly considering pursuing travel therapy as a new grad but aren’t sure if it’s the “right” choice? If so, this post is for you!

You may have been told in school that new grads should wait to get a year of experience before becoming a travel therapist. They say this because with most travel therapy contracts, travelers are often expected to “hit the ground running,” sometimes without mentorship or extensive training that is more readily available at a full-time position.

While this can be the case, there are alternative mentorship options out there for you.

In addition, if you start a placement in a setting that you’ve already done a fieldwork in, you will be prepared to do the job competently. You will also still get some training at your placement, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing the systems the job has in place. 

If you get a contract with other therapists around (more on this below), it will actually not be much different than starting a full-time job, since most full-time therapy jobs nowadays don’t do a lot of hand-holding either.


The great benefits of travel therapy:

1. Great compensation with tax-free stipends

2. Invaluable learning experiences that won’t come with a permanent job

3. Little to no involvement in the drama and politics of permanent positions

4. Amazing flexibility with the ability to take time off between contracts

5. The traveling!

One thing to keep in mind before you start is whether or not the setting will have other occupational therapy practitioners around you to learn from. I don’t recommend doing a home health contract or other travel contract that doesn’t have any other OTs or COTAs around you when you’re just starting out.

Having other practitioners in your discipline is invaluable if you have any questions at all about a patient, situation, documentation question, etc. even if they aren’t there to be an assigned mentor.

As long as you ask the question to the hiring manager beforehand to ensure there will be other practitioners around you, then it will not be much scarier doing a travel contract vs. starting your first full-time permanent job.

No matter where you start (travel or permanent), the first year is going to be the hardest, but it is such a fantastic learning experience as you begin to build your skillset.


A Few Things to Consider

It is a misconception that as a traveler, you can get any job in any setting in any of your dream cities with a huge pay rate. This isn’t quite the case, and you have to be a bit more flexible with your options.

You will learn once you begin the travel therapy journey that you’ll have to choose one or two of these as your priorities, from pay, setting and location. For example, you might get an awesome acute care opportunity with a great pay package but it might be in a rural setting a bit off the beaten path from a big city.

You will also want to make sure you’re working with one or two trustworthy recruiters that have new grad experience and can help you navigate through the sometimes-complicated world of travel therapy.

On your own or with the help of your recruiter, you’ll also want to start working on multiple state licenses to expand your job options. I personally have five state licenses and it’s not unheard of to have around 5-7. You’ll have to keep up with renewals though, so having too many can be a headache.

I hope this post gave you a bit of an assurance that it is totally possible to do travel therapy as a new grad and is a great learning experience given you’re flexible and are prepared to jump right in.

Additional Resources to Check Out:

Four Tips to Know Before Becoming a Travel Occupational Therapist

Should I Become a Travel Therapist?

Why Travel as a New Grad?

Q&A With Travel Occupational Therapist Cheryl Mendoza

The Nitty-Gritty of Traveling OT Positions

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  • Johnna Mosbarger,COTA/L October 4, 2016   Reply →

    As a recently graduated OTA, currently on the job hunt, I am finding your blog is answering so many of my pressing questions! Thanks for your guidance and inspiration!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L October 5, 2016   Reply →

      I’m so glad the articles are helpful for you! I hope you have a smooth job hunt and transition to your new career. Let me know if there are any other topics you’d like to see on the blog that would be helpful 🙂

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