PURPOSE: To address the growing shortage of rural physicians, several medical schools have developed rural training experiences for their students. However, little is known about the educational impact of these experiences. Thus, the authors conducted a critical review of North American studies examining medical student outcomes associated with rural training experiences. METHOD: A comprehensive search strategy was used to identify studies about undergraduate medical education in a rural setting, searching PubMed from 1966 to June 2009. The researchers evaluated titles and abstracts to identify publications that appeared to report measures associated with undergraduate medical school rural training experience. Only those studies with a measurable outcome such as career choice, practice location, clinical competency, and student satisfaction were analyzed. RESULTS: The review identified a total of 72 studies. Most were single-cohort studies or cohort studies with control groups, with career choice and practice location the most commonly reported measure. The majority reported that rural experiences influenced students toward primary care specialties and to consider rural practice. Studies using self-report found that students generally valued the experience and had a high degree of satisfaction. CONCLUSIONS: This review shows that placement in rural settings is a positive learning experience that students and preceptors value. Although the evidence supports that these rotations influence practice site and career choice, it is not clear whether they reinforce preexisting interest or have the ability to motivate previously uninterested students to consider careers in primary care or rural medicine.