Competitive Coding or Software Development ? [Answered]

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Every student has the doubt of whether to choose Competitive Coding or Software Development ? This is an important question for your career. Time is limited and each path bears different fruits at the end. We have presented a clear picture of Competitive Coding vs Software Development in several aspects.

Table of content:

  1. Know what each path is about?
    1.1. What Competitive Coding consists of?
    1.2. What Software Development consists of?
  2. What will you get at the end?
    2.1. Benefits of doing Competitive Coding in Future
    2.2. Benefits of doing Software Development in Future
  3. Make your decision: Competitive Coding vs Software Development

Know what each path is about?

Every Computer Science student pursuing Bachelor's degree or Master's degree is confused whether to invest time in Competitive Coding or Software Development. As a beginner, you might not have a clear view of what each path consist of. We will bring the complete picture.

1.1. What Competitive Coding consists of?

Competitive Programming involves solving Algorithm and Data Structure based problems with the objective to achieve the most optimal performance.

Skills needed/ preferred:

  • Theoretical skills: Algorithms, Data Structure, Implementation design
  • Technical skills: One Programming Language like C++ or Java.

To prove your skills in this path, you need to:

  • Participate in online Competitive Coding contests
  • Participate in ICPC
  • Write about Algorithms online like at OpenGenus IQ

Following the course at your University will be not enough to make you a master of this path. This is a vast area but with specific techniques under your belt, you can achieve a strong position.

You need to have idea of using and implementing Advanced Algorithms like Welsh Powell Algorithm and Advanced Data Structures like Y Fast Tries.

You can participate and compete with other Competitive Programmers at contests at platforms like CodeForces, CodeChef and others. You will recieve a World ranking or National ranking.

Students with a good practice of 1 year can easily get into top 100 in India. Students should form a team of 3 students every year and participate in ICPC (International Collegiate Programming Contest). ICPC is very popular and common in India.

If team co-ordination is good and technical problem solving skill is decent, you can easily go to the National round (2nd round) where the teams representing India are selected. If you are able to go to National round where over 1200 teams get selected with 3 teams from each University.

Notable Competitive Coding/ Programming Contests on International Level you should participate in are:

  • Facebook Hacker Cup
  • Google Code Jam
  • International Collegiate Programming Contest (ACM ICPC)
  • International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI)
  • Topcoder Open (TCO)
  • Yandex Cup
  • Google Hash Code
  • Google Kick Start

For more details on the contests with dates to participate / apply, check: Top Competitive Coding Contests

See the position of Indian teams at ICPC World Finals: Position of India at ICPC World Finals (1999 to 2021)

1.2. What Software Development consists of?

Software Developemnt is the process of designing a solution or architecture of a problem, choose the right technologies to be used and then, start by implementing it.

Competitive Coding needs more Problem Solving Skills with a strong foundation in Mathematical Analysis. Software Development is more of implementing ideas in a clean way.

Skills needed/ preferred:

  • Theoretical skills: System Design, Compiler Design
  • Multiple programming languages: Python, C++ and Java
  • Web-based Programming / markup languages: HTML, CSS, JavaScript
  • Web Framework: Django, Flask, Ruby on Rails
  • Database: SQL, MySQL
  • Software tools: MIX tool, GNU debugger and many more

To prove your skills in this path, you need to:

  • Develop/ Implement a couple of project ideas
  • Participate in Smart India Hackathon and other Hackathons
  • Contribute to significant open-source projects
  • Write about Software Development ideas online like at OpenGenus IQ

2. What will you get at the end?

A very few people take a path just for the sake of research. You are here becuase you want to set your career and we understand it. We will give a clear picture of what each path takes you and the overall impact in your career.

2.1. Benefits of doing Competitive Coding in Future

Top Companies like Google and Facebook greatly value Competitive Programmers. If you have proved your skills in online contests or at ICPC, then you will definitely get an Interview at these companies. Problems at Interview will be familiar to Competitive Coding Contests and hence, you should be able to clear it easily.

Direct Internship and Job offers (without Interview) to Top Competitive Programmers in the Country or your Unversity by decently big Companies like Directi.

Average CTC (Cost to Company) of a decent Competitive Programmer is 20 Lakhs Rupees or $120K in USA. Significantly higher than the industry average of 4 Lakhs Rupees or $70K in USA.

You can win several contents which will make you globally recognized. This will be an easy gateway to pursue higher studies at Universities in USA.

The downsides are:

  • After 5 years of work experience, your skills in Competitive Coding will not be considered. This is because Companies need to get their work done and having a good hold on it, makes you capable to design optimal solutions but does not prove your skills on real problems. So, you should get in a good position with these 5 years if you want to relie on Competitive Coding.

  • You do not get experience of working in a real project. Once you join a job, your work will be nothing like Competitive Programming but the ideas gained will help in the long run.

2.2. Benefits of doing Software Development in Future

You are more likely to get a high paying job at a highly funded startup. If you are not strong in Algorithms, then chance of getting a job at a top company like Google is slim but with strong hold on Software Development, your job at a leading startup is secured.

Salary is comparable to Competitive Coding. Salary is lower for student who have not master neither of the two paths.

On getting job at a startup, you will receive stocks which is more likely to give greater returns compared to top companies. There is a risk of no returns as well.

Your experience in Software Development is close to working in a real project. Hence, you are more likely to sail through your job.

You can put your skills to use and develop a software. This can be a breakthrough to becoming your own startup and use it to raise funds.

The downsides are:

  • Hackathon results are relative and dependent on Judges. There is no absolute way to prove your skills relative to other students in Software Development. Hackathon success come from creativity and development skills.

3. Make your decision: Competitive Coding vs Software Development

You should go for Software Development if:

  • You want to put your skills to solve real life problems and develop a startup around it.
  • You want a job at a startup.
  • You are not a fast coder.

You should go for Competitive Coding if:

  • You have a knack for solving problems and are a fast coder.
  • You want a job at a top company like Google.
  • You want to compete with others based on your skills.

With this article at OpenGenus, your doubt must be clear of whether to choose Competitive Coding or Software Development. Best of luck for your future career.