I am currently looking to pursue a master's degree in physics - stand alone or integrated with a PhD program. I have a master's degree in mechanical engineering and want to make the switch to physics - with an interest in quantum mechanics, particle physics and string theory. As you can imagine, my academic background may not lend itself towards an ideal physics graduate application. I am trying to figure out how I can improve my chances. I have a few things in mind. I can look for a research project in mechanical engineering or applied physics with engineering application in an academic setting. This might help me with a recommendation towards my application although not in the field I am looking to get an MS in - I do not currently have a recommendation in relation to a research setting. If I choose this route, I can only apply to an MS or PhD (integrated MS + Phd) program that provides tuition waiver and financial support. The other option would be to work and save up as I am a little short on personal funds at the moment. This would open up the possibility of pursuing an MS program in a European country (not the UK) where the tuition fees are minimal and I would only have to take care of my living expenses. Another motivation to work would be that I can simultaneously take up physics courses at a local university and gain some academic background in physics before my applications. The two routes would enhance my application in different ways. Also, I assume that getting a funded education would be more difficult. I was wondering if someone could shed light on the relative importance of 1 good recommendation vs getting a few physics courses under my belt. I would appreciate any input on a pathway that I may have missed out and am not currently considering.