The year of catch up isn't a deal breaker for me. If I can get funding while catching up, I won't have any qualms.
I've done quite a bit of research into the various disciplines of engineering. I've conducted research in some of the fields including optics, nanotech/solid state and some EE work pertaining to plasma physics.
I worry about the transition because if I'm unable to succeed, it doesn't really matter how deeply interested I am. That said, I understand that the time and work necessary for a PhD is nothing to take lightly. Which is why I am narrowing down my choices by removing both the fields I'm not interested in and the schools/programs that won't accept my application.
I do enjoy physics, but the career opportunities it offers are not the ones I'm looking for. I know some say that a physicist can get a job as an engineer. But, I think its easier for an engineer to get a job as an engineer.
I emailed UCSD's MAE program and got this response:
Yes, absolutely you would be a good candidate for our PhD program. We have several students with degrees in physics as well as math. Financial assistance is reserved for PhD students so if you are in need of that, the PhD program is your best bet.
So it seems to vary quite a bit between schools and programs.
Again, thanks for your responses. You're really helping me out a lot. I appreciate it.