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Trade union official

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

Annual Salary

£30,000 to £80,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 37 a week

You could work: evenings; attending events or appointments

3%
Future employment

There will be 3% fewer Trade union official jobs in 2026.
In your local area

Day to day tasks

At a regional level you may:

  • advise members and management on legal or health and safety issues
  • study and interpret legal policy, agreements and procedures relating to work
  • recruit, train and support local officials and shop stewards
  • represent union members in negotiations or before industrial court and tribunal proceedings
  • deal with local disputes and case work
  • work as a learning representative

At the national head office you may:

  • develop national policy
  • carry out research
  • develop learning programmes for members
  • work in media relations
  • negotiate with employers organisations, political parties and government
  • represent the union at conferences

Working environment

You could work in an office.

You can get into this job through:

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

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. You could study any subject though common ones 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
For more information
Apprenticeship

You could do a trade union official higher apprenticeship.

This usually takes around 18 months to complete.

Entry requirements

Most people following this route have:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
  • experience in related work
For more information
Work

You could start as a trade union representative in the workplace or a union administrator or organiser 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 work 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

Career tips

You can see an official list of trade unions on GOV.UK.

Further information

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

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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.

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

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

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
  • active listening skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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