The role of the research veterinarian might be more behind the scenes compared to say, a clinical veterinarian, but this job is equally important. Research veterinarians are often educators who train those studying in the field of veterinary medicine, are engaged in clinical research along the lines of physicians.
They also serve the public at large in various capacities such as Homeland Security, as well as contribute to scientific publications to better the veterinary industry for all.
Research veterinarians are often called in to solve both animal and human health problems, such as West Nile Virus, Mad Cow Disease and a host of other critical illnesses that affect huge populations of animals and people. Sometimes they work in a lab and use animals for research purposes (a highly controversial subject according to some), but even when they are working with animals, their primary goal is always first and foremost to maintain the safety and health of said animals.
Research veterinarians have been involved in identifying and treating Salmonella species, fighting yellow fever and malaria, discovering botulism, and working with animals to create surgical techniques that are then used in human surgeries, such as hip replacements and organ transplants.
While research veterinarians employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service may be dealing with Mad Cow disease and keeping diseased and/or unsafe meat and poultry out of the reach of consumers, others employed by the state and federal government are often involved in quarantines and inspecting animals to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
At the Department of Agriculture, research veterinarians in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service work on vaccines, as well as enforce the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.
Other research veterinarians work with the government to run city/state health departments and identify issues that can affect the health of both animals and humans.
Biomedical research is another field research veterinarians are often involved in, especially as it pertains to pathology and microbiology. Some work in pharmaceutical firms helping to develop drugs, chemicals and other products for both animal and human use.
According to Salary.com, the median salary for a research veterinarian in the United States in $88,500.