Master's program to get research experience and GPA boost, then phD?

<p>Hi all,</p>

<p>I graduated from a top-10 undergrad school with a 3.285 in mechanical engineering (similar major gpa, plus a psych minor) last year ('09). Not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I found a job in my field and have decided that I like academia a whole lot more. I'm also considering going into consulting or banking, but that's not what this post is about.</p>

<p>Problem is, I can think of one (maybe two) professors who I can get a stellar letter of recommendation from - I was immature in undergrad and didn't plan ahead well at all. Despite the fact that I've been miserable at my work, I've kept a airtight lid on it and can comfortably get a letter from a supervisor. I also did a grand total of zero research in undergrad. My grades were stellar when I started growing the hell up senior year and started focusing on my major, then went back to mediocre underloading second semester when I realized I was about to graduate and have a real job. </p>

<p>I took the GRE about a month ago, 790 q, 640 verbal, 4 on the writing part. If it's relevant, I am certain I can re-take it and nail the writing with more prep. If not, I don't think that 790 quantitative is going to hurt me.</p>

<p>I've been considering a few grad school options, and I'd appreciate input on how realistic I'm being. </p>

<p>1) Master's in Economics (with research and high GPA), some internship, moving on to phD in economics. My math grades were less than spectacular in undergrad (mainly B's) and I only recently took my first macroeconomics class online, but I've done a ton of reading about the subject and find it fascinating. </p>

<p>2) Master's in (x) engineering/science, some internship, moving on to phD in (x) engineering/science with focus on nanotech, biotech, etc.</p>

<p>I'm also operating under two assumptions:</p>

<p>1) I can get into a top-tier or almost-top-tier master's program and excel in it with my qualifications and
2) With a master's degree, a shock-and-awe GPA, and research experience I stand a WAY better chance of getting into a top phD program than I do now, and with a year of exposure to the field, I'll have a far better idea of what I want to get myself into. I'm willing to put in a year or two worth of time, money and effort if it means the difference between a decent, respected program and being on the cutting edge.
3) If after a master's program I decide I want nothing to do with my field, I can get hired into consulting, banking, etc. (backup plan)</p>

<p>Are my assumptions correct? Am I missing anything? </p>



<p>Figure out what you want to do first. You have two very different paths to choose from, and this signals to me that you haven't placed too much consideration on what you ultimately want to do, and may be doing this prematurely to avoid waffling post-graduation.</p>

<p>I can't offer much advice for Engineering/Science, but your GRE is fine for most Ph.D. programs as is. Your GPA leaves more to be desired, but I'd honestly go back to your school (or any other accredited institution) and take more math classes as a non-matriculated student, and do well in those.</p>