How to become a trade union official
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- 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. You could study any subject though common ones include:
- social science
You'll usually need:
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
You could do a trade union official higher apprenticeship.
This usually takes around 18 months to complete.
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
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.
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
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
- trade union legislation or organisation
- education and training
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.
You can see an official list of trade unions on GOV.UK.
You can find out more about working and training as a trade union official through the Trades Union Congress.