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Trade union official

Alternative titles for this job include Trade union officer

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

Average salary (a year)

£30,000 Starter


£66,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

35 to 37 a week

You could work

evenings attending events or appointments

How to become

Explore the different ways to get into this role.

How to become 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 degree or postgraduate qualification.

You could study most degree subjects for this role, with common ones including:

  • 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 apply to do a Trade Union Official Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship.

This usually takes around a year and a half 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 

More Information


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 understanding of how a union works.


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 might 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 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.

What it takes

Find out what skills you’ll use in this role.

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 use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

Discover the day to day tasks you’ll do in this role.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

As a regional trade union official 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.

Career path and progression

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.

Career path and progression

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

Current opportunities

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Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

We can't find any apprenticeship vacancies in England for a Trade union official right now.

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Courses In England

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