Where can you find 1000 software engineers—especially if most of them are already gainfully employed? Intel, which announced earlier this year that it planned to hire at least 1000 new software engineers in 2011, seems well on its way to pulling it off.

Lori Weber, Intel’s global hiring director, says the company hired around 50% of its goal by the end of June by recruiting a combination of experienced and recent college graduate candidates. Intel initially said the 1000 software engineers were part of a plan to hire 4000 people company-wide in 2011. That number has since jumped to 5500, but the goal to hire 1000 software engineers hasn’t changed.

They won’t be the company’s first software engineers. In fact, Intel says it’s already the sixth largest software company in the world by number of employees. “We have had software engineers for many years,” says Mary Willner, software director of Intel’s LAN Access Division. “We have been working on Ethernet devices for more than 20 years. Without the software it would be just silicon.”

What’s new is that Intel is being more public about the fact that it does have software engineers and that it’s being very deliberate in its hiring this year in that skill set. “Looking forward, we just felt we needed more growth \\[in software development\\] than we have had in the past and that’s primarily tied to our working on computing solutions,” Willner says.

Intel is hiring engineers for just about all of its product groups, including one in Poland. Most of the new Intel hires will be located in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Texas. There also will be some placements in Shanghai and India. But even the more experienced people hired from other companies are expected to undergo some mentoring and integration into Intel’s software development environment.

Jobs On Tap

What does Intel mean by software engineers? Willner says the company’s requirements range from people who can do firmware up the stack to working on device drivers, applications software, Linux, Windows, ESX, and other categories.

Additional opportunities may come from Intel’s acquisition of the security software company McAfee in 2010 and Infineon’s wireless chip unit. Intel also announced in February that it plans to build a $5 billion fab in Arizona by 2013, sharply increasing its U.S. manufacturing capacity. And, it’s expanding its capacity in Israel and China.

Intel is adding new features, via more software, for devices based on its Atom chips, along with other new projects it has in the works. Some of its new software engineers will be working on SmartTV or the AppUp Center Application Store, which is similar in design to Apple’s App Store, with applications for netbooks and tablets running on Intel or x86 processors. Intel’s AppUp store currently has more than 3000 applications.

“Where we end up being a little more challenged is if the people we’re looking at are very narrow in the technical skills we’re looking for,” notes Willner. “In my group, for example, we’re looking for networking experience and that tends to be more of a challenge than software development or validation expertise.”

Simply recruiting 1000 software engineers will present a challenge. Job postings nationwide for software engineers have increased 12% in the last year.

Intel expects to fill many of its software engineering slots through its university events and programs. These include the company’s Parallel Program, which focuses on educating next-generation software developers in multiple-core processor technologies. The Microelectronic Fabrication Curriculum draws on a variety of disciplines with a mathematical base.

Intel also supports the Microelectronics Packaging Curriculum, which concentrates on assembly and packaging technology as a key element of manufacturing and product development, and the VLSI Curriculum, which is a complete course for creating a VLSI program.

Software engineers are the big winners in a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecast with software engineers/applications jobs expected to grow 34% from 2008 to 2018, followed closely by BLS-created categories for “software engineer” (32%) and software engineers/systems software (30%). Overall, the BLS is projecting 785,700 new job openings in computer and mathematical science from 2008 to 2018. As a group, these occupations are expected to grow more than twice as fast as the average for all occupations in the country.

The only shortfall in the overall IT category, according to BLS projections, is computer programmers, where job growth over the 2008-2018 period is expected to decline by 3%. Interestingly, especially for companies like Intel, the projected decrease of computer programmers over the 2008-2018 period is more than offset by increases in software engineers.

CareerBliss, an online career community, also recently reported that its extensive review found that “software engineer” topped its list of the Top 20 Hot Jobs for New Grads in the class of 2011. Intel, like most companies, wouldn’t be specific about what it’s paying its new software engineers, although it regularly reviews salaries for virtually all of its employee categories. But CareerBliss says salaries for software engineers are climbing and pegs the average salary for software engineers at $71,916.

CareerCast.com, a job search portal that offers job listings across North America, also ranked software engineer as the best job in 2011, partly because of all of the development activity in wireless and other mobile devices, but also because of its strong employment outlook and income growth potential.

Perhaps you’ll be one of Intel’s next 500 software engineers. For more information, go to www.intel.com/jobs/careers/software/ and www.intel.com/jobs/index.htm.