Trade union official

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

Annual Salary

£50,000 to £80,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 40

Future employment

There will be 1% fewer Trade union official jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You’ll represent the interests of union members and discuss issues like health and safety, pay and redundancy with employers.

At a regional level you may:

  • advise on legal or health and safety issues
  • recruit, train and support local officials and shop stewards
  • 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


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

You'll usually need:

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

Other Routes

There are no set requirements but many trade union officials have a degree or a professional qualification.

You could move into this role from a variety of backgrounds, including:

  • shop steward – experience as a paid or unpaid local representative will give you in-depth knowledge of the workings of a union
  • trainer – with a background in adult education or training and development you might work as a Union Learning Representative
  • graduate – you could join a national head office straight from university with a qualification in a specialist area like employment law, trade union legislation or research

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.

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

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

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.

£50,000 to £80,000

Starter salary: £20,000 to £35,000

Experienced salary: £30,000 to £50,000

These figures are a guide.

35 to 40

You’ll usually work 35 to 40 hours a week if in a full time role.

You’ll be mainly office-based, but may also spend some of your time attending meetings and visiting members and union representative.

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:

  • excellent communication, negotiation and listening skills
  • confidence in public speaking
  • the ability to motivate and manage people
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