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What is a Hackathon? Your Complete Guide

Justin McIntyre

What is a Hackathon? Your Complete Guide's Image

If you’ve paid attention to tech news in recent years, you’ve probably heard the term ‘hackathon.’ These mysterious-sounding events are all the rage, with thousands of hackathons taking place globally each year. So, what is a hackathon, and why would someone want to participate?

Simply put, a hackathon is a hacking marathon. Don’t fret, this kind of hacking has less to do with targeting cybersecurity and more to do with solving simple business problems. At these events, coders come together to “hack” (i.e. play around with code) and solve specific digital problems. Hackathons are also usually team-based, where small teams collaborate to get the job done.

Hackathons are different from basic coding sessions. Some key differences include duration, mission and outcome. Understanding these unique elements can help you determine whether a hacking marathon is something you’d enjoy.


For starters, hackathons are long—often 24 hours or longer. For this reason, they usually take place on the weekend and involve a lot of caffeine, snacks and team bonding. If you’ve ever wanted to get closer to other coders, there’s no better way than during a hackathon.

The duration of a hackathon also contributes to the general sense of purpose associated with them. Your team has a specific amount of time to solve a problem—no more, no less. The deadline adds both pressure and excitement.


Every hackathon has a unique mission. Some pull in members from the coding community, others rely on a company’s internal coders, but they share the mission of finding solutions to specific problems. What started as a way for companies to find answers quickly has transformed into mission-driven events that bring communities together.


At the end of the hackathon, teams gather to present their solutions. This is where the competition comes into play. At most hackathons, one team is named the winner. There are often prizes, plus plenty of eye-opening presentations on coding solutions. Coding bootcamps like Hack Reactor can help establish and fortify your skills, setting you apart not only at hackathons but in the professional world as well.

Regardless of which team wins, hackathons are designed to help coders get better. It’s fun to create a unique solution but the ability to simply discuss and practice code with fellow coders is often more important than winning.

Now that you know what a hackathon is, you’re probably eager to get started. Hack Reactor bootcamps can build your coding skills and get you on the path to a successful career in coding. For more information, visit our website. To learn more about the coding industry, check out our blog.