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How to Implement Selection Sort in C?

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Mayank Dham

Sorting, the process of arranging elements in a specific order, lies at the heart of computer science and is a fundamental building block for a wide range of applications. From organizing data for efficient searching to enabling smoother user experiences in applications, sorting algorithms play a crucial role. One such elementary yet instructive sorting algorithm is "Selection Sort."
This article embarks on a journey to demystify Selection Sort in C programming language. We’ll explore the step-by-step process of how Selection Sort operates, dissect its time and space complexities, and discuss its advantages and limitations. By the end of this article, readers will have gained a clear grasp of Selection Sort’s inner workings, equipping them with essential knowledge to make informed decisions about when and how to use this algorithm effectively.

What is Selection Sort in C?

Selection Sort is a comparison-based and in-place sorting algorithm which takes an element and compares it to all other elements before placing it at its correct position in the set of elements.

Before hopping on to the implementation of selection sort in c, let’s take a real-world example, we can assume students standing in a school assembly in an unordered manner and they must stand from shortest to tallest to make everyone see the podium without any difficulties. We will pick the first one and compare it with anyone who is shorter than the student at the front, we will keep replacing it till we keep getting a student with a shorter height.

Once we are done finding the student who is going to stand in the first place, we move to check for the student who is going to be placed in the second position with the second shortest height.

Till we end up with the student with the second last position, we will not be done with the selection. Similar to this, we apply logic and conditions to execute the selection sort algorithm in c.

Algorithm for Selection Sort in C Programming Language

The Selection Sort program in C to sort the array in ascending order can be implemented in a few easy steps as mentioned:

  1. Declare an array of size, n.
  2. Provide the n inputs such that the array is unsorted.
  3. Loop i, from 0 to n-2
  4. Inner loop j runs from i+1 to n-1
  5. On each iteration of j:
    • If arr[i] > arr[i] then we swap the number in order to sort the array in ascending order.
    • Else continue
  6. Print the sorted array

In this manner, the array will be sorted in ascending order will the lowest element at the start and the largest at the end position. Looking at the algorithm, its gives an idea to do the selection sort program in c.

Dry Run for Selection Sort in C Programming Language

To understand selection sort in c with more clarity, let us look at the dry run of the program.

We have an array sorted in descending order as 20,10,8,5,1. Our task is to sort this array in ascending order using the selection sort algorithm in c. The approach to solving is as follows explained using various passes.

First Pass: We will compare 20 with 10 and the position will be swapped, we will still be at index i, where 10 is lying and now we will compare 10 (at index 0) with the element at index 2 i.e. 8 and swapping will be performed. Similarly, 5 and 1 will switch the position with index 3 and index 4

Second Pass: The first index is having the smallest element and we will start to find the number for 1st index or second smallest with 20 switching places with 10, 10 with 8 and lastly 8 with 5.

Third Pass: First two elements are already sorted and we will start checking from index 2, 20 will switch its places with 10 and 10 will be swapped with 8.

Fourth Pass: We will be standing at the second last position and also the last comparison that needs to be made between the last element and the second last, where 20 will be replaced with 10 and further winding up the selection sort program in C.

The sorted array obtained is going to be 1,5,8,10 and 20.

Code for Selection Sort in C

int main(){
	int a[10],i;
	int j,temp,num;
	printf("Enter the number to give\n");
	for(i=0; i<num; i++){
	for(i=0; i<num-1; i++){  
		for(j=i+1;j<num; j++){

printf("Selection Sort in C\n");
for(i=0; i<num; i++){
	return 0;


Complexity of Selection Sort
Selection sort algorithm in c ( or in general any language ) has a space complexity of O(1) as there is no extra space used being a comparison-based and in-place sorting algorithm.

Talking about time complexity, it is going to be O(n*n) as there are two loops and each iteration in the outer loop is going to make n comparisons. Assuming there are five elements in the array then 25 comparisons are made to sort the array using Selection Sort algorithm in C.


In this article, we started with the practical working of selection sort and later got to know the mechanism of the selection sort algorithm in c along with its dry run. We studied how to solve the selection sort program in c and analyzed the space and time complexity of this sorting algorithm. We hope that you have understood everything in detail from this article on Selection Sort Program in C.

FAQs Related to Selection Sort Algorithm in C

1. What is in-place sorting?
In-place means that all the operations which be made without using any additional data structure for their execution. Selection Sort in C or any specific language uses in-place sorting.

2. What is the time complexity of the Selection Sort Program in C?
Selection Sort Program in C takes O(n^2) as two loops are going to run N-1 time where one decides the value at index and inner loops check for all the succeeding indexes element.

Even the best-case time complexity of the selection sort algorithm in C ( or other languages in general ) is going to be O(n^2).

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