So I've recently gotten really motivated to get back to school and get my PhD. A couple of problems, though. First, I'm 33 (okay, I know there's older people out there, but getting late for a full career reset). And also, a BS in CS is basically a terminal degree for my career (software developer). I could pursue a graduate degree, but it's pretty meaningless in my industry. Wouldn't do me any good. Also, I haven't had much interest in software development in many years, anyways. So I figure if I'm going back to school, it should be for something I actually want to learn about.
So the next hurdle - my wife is military, and we can't move anywhere for the next 3 years until she gets out, so relocating for a school is out of the question. The good news is that it gives me 3 years to establish a good foundation. I've looked into local colleges and none offer any programs in physics or astrophysics. The best I could do is the University of Georgia, which would be about a 1.5 hour commute each way. That's assuming I could even get accepted, which is doubtful. I have a non-physics degree, mediocre grades (~3.2 GPA) at a middle-of-the-road school and no physics courses at all.
So here's my plan (please tell me if it's a terrible one)... I have been accepted into the MSc program for astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia as an international student, online. It was pretty much the only astrophysics program I could find online. I'm pretty confident that I can maintain a 4.0 GPA or close to it, as long as I don't lose my motivation like I did with my undergrad. During this time, I will be self-teaching physics and preparing for the PGRE. I figure with 3+ years, I should be able to get myself to a pretty good level of understanding and score well on the test.
Do you guys think that that will be enough to get accepted into a doctoral program? The USQ program doesn't have any physics courses in it, and none offered online that I could even take as electives. So even if I come out with a MSc in Astrophysics with a 4.0 GPA, I still have no physics courses, only my PGRE score as the only proof of comprehension. Is that okay? And if so, what level of school would I be looking at? Would I have a chance at a top school if I had something like a 90%ile on the PGRE (which is probably wishful thinking, but just trying to set expectations for what I may need)?