Trade union official

Trade union officer

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Trade union officials represent, train and advise union members, carry out research and develop policy.

Salary range: £50,000 to £80,000

How to become a trade union official

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly
  • training with a professional body


You may be able to join a national head office as a research officer straight from university, if you’ve got a relevant degree or postgraduate qualification. Common subjects include:

  • social science
  • politics
  • economics
  • law

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information


You could start as a learning rep in a local union office. This would help you to get experience and an understanding of the workings of the union at ground level.

Volunteering and experience

There’s a lot of competition for full-time jobs, so relevant paid or voluntary experience could give you a head start when you apply for work. Relevant experience could include:

  • advice work
  • student or local politics
  • mediation and negotiation jobs
  • campaigning

Direct application

You may be able to apply directly if you’ve got a background in adult education or training and development.

It can also help if you have experience in the voluntary or public sector, or experience of tackling issues around equal opportunities, economics, or health and safety.

For many jobs at national head office level, you’ll normally be qualified and experienced in a specialist area like:

  • employment or general law
  • economics
  • trade union legislation or organisation
  • media
  • research
  • education and training

Other routes

You could do work-based training courses through Unionlearn or the General Federation of Trade Unions. Training like this could be useful when you apply to become a full-time paid official at a union’s branch or regional office.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about working and training as a trade union official through the Trades Union Congress.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of human resources and employment law
  • knowledge of English language
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

At a regional level your tasks may include:

  • advising on legal or health and safety issues
  • recruiting, training and supporting local officials and shop stewards
  • dealing with local disputes and case work
  • working as a learning representative

At the national head office you may be:

  • developing national policy
  • carrying out research
  • developing learning programmes for members
  • working in media relations
  • negotiating with employers’ organisations, political parties and government

Working environment

You could work in an office.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a regional secretary of your union or move into a post at national head office. You could also move into politics as a councillor or MP.

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