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To investigate whether psychologists' career/work values and perceptions of the rural work environment influence their intentions or choice to practise in a rural location beyond the effect of rural background.Online, cross-sectional survey assessed rural background, work values and perceptions of the reinforcers available in rural and urban work environments.One hundred and eighty-nine first year psychology students (78.8% women) and 124 registered psychologists (84.7% women).Students' intention to practise in a rural location and psychologists' choice of practice location.Rural environments were seen as offering psychologists less opportunity than urban environments to fulfil their need for lifestyle, prestige, management and scholarly pursuits, but more opportunity for service and autonomy. Practitioners and students who placed less value on prestige were more likely to have worked in a rural area or be intending to do so. High value of service was also a predictor of rural intentions. Perceptions that rural work environments offered opportunities for scholarly pursuits increased the odds that a psychologist had spent time practising in a rural area. Person–environment fit was not significant.Recruitment and retention strategies to address the shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas need to consider perceptions of the work environment and how to fulfil practitioners' work values.