Trade Union Official

Job Description:

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

Job Category:
Government & Public Services

What you will do:

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


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of human resources and employment law
  • knowledge of English language
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • the ability to use your initiative (ambition/drive)
  • analytical thinking skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure (leadership skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Trade Union Official, there are no specific subject requirements. However, it’s important to have a strong educational foundation and develop certain skills and knowledge areas that will be beneficial for this career. Here are some subjects and other qualifications that can help you prepare for a role in this field:

  1. English: Good communication skills, both written and verbal, are essential for a Trade Union Official. You’ll need to effectively communicate with union members, negotiate on their behalf, and draft documents.
  2. Mathematics: A solid understanding of mathematics can be useful, especially if you’re involved in handling financial aspects of the union, such as budgeting or financial planning.
  3. Social Studies: Subjects like Sociology, Politics, or Economics can help you develop an understanding of social and economic issues that are relevant to the labor movement.
  4. History: Knowledge of labor history, including key events and labor movements, can be valuable in understanding the context of trade union activities.
  5. ICT (Information and Communication Technology): Basic computer skills are important for data management, research, and communication.
  6. Citizenship or Law (if available): These subjects can provide insights into legal and ethical aspects of employment, labor rights, and industrial relations.
  7. Business Studies: Understanding business and management concepts can be useful for negotiations and representing union members in discussions with employers.
  8. Foreign Languages: If you’re working in an international context or with non-native English speakers, knowledge of foreign languages can be an asset.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • volunteering
  • 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
  • politics
  • economics
  • law


You could do a trade union official higher apprenticeship.

This usually takes around 18 months to complete.


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
  • 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

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 35-37 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings attending events or appointments.

You could work in an office.

Career Path & 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, in the UK, a Member of Parliment or Politician.