^Can't speak for the UK, never having worked there. But I'd suggest talking to an IT headhunter based in the UK to find out what the expectations and norms are for that employment market.
I say this because obtaining certification is both time consuming and costly. If it's an entry requirement for decent employment in your job market, you don't really have a choice. But if that's the case, it's also important to decide which certifications you pursue carefully since you likely won't have the time, energy, or money to get all of them. And it's become somewhat questionable just how important certifications still are for the IT workforce.
Not all certifications automatically translate out to better offers or higher salaries. In fact, none really do any more. At best, they may get you in the door for an interview. Especially if you don't have much documented work experience. Note too that certain certifications will be more in vogue than others at any given time. So to get on top of that, you'll need some inside advice. Either get in touch with an IT recruiter to discuss it - or get yourself set up on LinkedIn and (politely!) work your connections for insights and advice.
Training for network engineering isn't particularly difficult AFAIC. There's no esoteric mathematics background you'll need. But you will need a good memory for detail plus an organized problem-solving mindset. After that, it's largely a matter of putting in the time learning the hundreds of details that make up a network person's body of knowledge.
Having a "can do" attitude is also essential once you start working in the field. Because you will be judged heavily on the results you produce. So "getting in there" and doing it correctly
is what it's all about. My company has an unofficial mantra: Up and running correctly in the shortest time possible.
I suggest you take that to heart. Because your future employers (or clients) will expect and accept nothing less from you.
Work hours in this field are generally the hours needed to accomplish the assignment. Putting in late nights, and coming in on weekends, is not unusual. But that's only to be expected since much of what you'll be implementing or provisioning needs to be done outside of normal business hours.
Work days vary. Most of us have routine tasks we're responsible for plus a few longer range projects (with deadlines) we're working on. But there's also those random network issues or outages we'll be called on to fix. Those can mess up even the best planned day. If that doesn't work for you, you'll need to seriously reconsider this field. Because (for most of us) our primary function is troubleshooter
first, and wise old engineer second. If something breaks, we're expected to fix it. Fast
. (Remember my company's mantra? Believe it!)
It's risky to try to predict where the market is headed - or what specific skill sets will be most valuable to have. However, most in the industry seem to feel that Linux certifications may become increasingly important over time. My own experience seems to confirm that since I'm seeing more and more mention of Linux certifications in IT job listings. I don't know if it's considered a real "plus" for these potential employers. Or if it's just something the HR department thinks is "nice to have." Either way, I'm seeing it - which makes it something worth my paying attention to.
Don't know if any of this was helpful. But there you have it. Good luck with your career goals.
If you have about an hour to spare, give this video a watch. This pretty much will sum up virtually everything you need to know about getting into and ahead in the IT profession. Some of it might be a little dated. But it's solid real-world info worth knowing: