Guide to Advancement

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Advancement topics include Rules and Regulations and policies regarding Cub Scouts,
Scouts BSA, Venturers, Special Needs, Scout Spirit, and What is "Active?"
Program resources are offered for Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scouting.

Guide to Advancement

Front cover of 2019 edition
First edition:2011
Latest edition:2019
PDF Adobe Acrobat PDF (2019)
HTML (2019)
Purchase (paper) (2019)
BSA Supply Number:Document No. 33088
2019 SKU: 648216



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The Guide to Advancement is available in the following formats:

History and Updates

BSA periodically updates and clarifies advancement policies and procedures. Updates that have occurred subsequent to the last release of the Guide To Advancement are posted and referenced at the Advancement and Awards page on

  • February 2019 - Guide to Advancement 2019 published

Clarification and Interpretations

Advancement News is the official e-letter of the Boy Scouts of America national Advancement Team. Its intent is to support and clarify procedures found in the Guide to Advancement, announce various changes and updates in advancement, and to assist advancement committees in making decisions that can help increase the rate of advancement.
Advancement News


The current edition of the Guide to Advancement is the official source for administering advancement in all Boy Scouts of America programs: Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scouts. It replaces any previous BSA advancement manuals and previous editions of the Guide to Advancement.
Guide To Advancement § Introduction.

What is Advancement?

What is Advancement?
Advancement is the process by which youth members of the Boy Scouts of America progress from rank to rank.
Guide To Advancement § Advancement Defined.

1. It Is a Method—Not an End in Itself

Advancement is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is one of several methods designed to help unit leadership carry out the aims and mission of the Boy Scouts of America.
Guide To Advancement § It Is a Method—Not an End in Itself.

2. Advancement Is Based on Experiential Learning

Everything done to advance—to earn ranks and other awards and recognition—is designed to educate or to otherwise expand horizons. Members learn and develop according to a standard. This is the case from the time a member joins, and then moves through, the programs of Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, and Venturing or Sea Scouts.

Experiential learning is the key: Exciting and meaningful activities are offered, and education happens. Learning comes from doing. For example, youth may read about first aid, hear it discussed, and watch others administer it, but they will not learn it until they practice it. Rushing a Scout through requirements to obtain a badge is not the goal. Advancement should be a natural outcome of a well-rounded unit program, rich in opportunities to work toward the ranks.

It is important to note, as with any educational opportunity, a rank or award is not the end of the learning process. In Scouting, after a requirement has been passed, the Scout is placed in practical situations that build retention through repeated use of skills. For example, the youth plays games that feature the skills, teaches other Scouts, and perhaps practices the skills in “real-life” outdoor experiences. A well-rounded and strong unit program takes advantage of these kinds of opportunities, using them to improve retention through practical application.

Guide To Advancement § Advancement Is Based on Experiential Learning.

3. Personal Growth Is the Primary Goal

Scouting skills—what a young person learns to do—are important, but not as important as the primary goal of personal growth achieved through participating in a unit program. The concern is for total, well-rounded development. Age-appropriate surmountable hurdles are placed before members, and as they face these challenges they learn about themselves and gain confidence.

Learning Scout skills and concepts through active participation is a vehicle for personal growth, but it is not the primary goal. For example, learning how to tie a knot, plan a menu, swim, or administer first aid may turn out to be critical in one’s life, but they are secondary to the goal of personal growth that comes with learning. As Scouts learn skills and are tested on them, and then reviewed and recognized, they develop confidence. They come to realize they can learn and do other similar things. The retention of Scouting skills and knowledge is important, of course; but for retention to take place, it will be because Scouting skills and knowledge are used in our programs.

Success is achieved when we fulfill the BSA Mission Statement and when we accomplish the aims of Scouting: character development, citizenship training, leadership, and mental and physical fitness. We know we are on the right track when we see youth accepting responsibility, demonstrating self-reliance, and caring for themselves and others; when they learn to weave Scouting ideals into their lives; and when we can see they will be positive contributors to our American society.

Though certainly goal-oriented, advancement is not a competition. Rather, it is a joint effort involving the leaders, the members, other volunteers such as merit badge counselors or Venturing consultants, and the family. Though much is done individually at their own pace, youth often work together in groups to focus on advancement at Cub Scout den meetings, for example, or participate in a Scouts BSA campout or Sea Scout cruise. As they do this, we must recognize each young person’s unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. As watchful leaders, either adult or youth, we lend assistance as called for and encourage members to help each other according to their abilities.

Guide To Advancement § Personal Growth Is the Primary Goal.

4. The Methods of Scouting

From Cub Scouting through Venturing and Sea Scouts, we put the methods to work. Together they lead to mission fulfillment. For example, the methods of the Scouts BSA program are Scouting ideals, the patrol method, advancement, adult association, outdoor program, the uniform, personal growth, and leadership development. Scouting ideals, put forth in the timeless instruments of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, represent the most basic method. Moving on, we know young people want to belong to groups. Throughout the Scouting program, we provide a place where the sense of belonging—as in a patrol—is an outcome of practicing skills, exploring interests, learning values, forming friendships, and enjoying adventure. Associations within families and with a variety of adults are critical too, especially in terms of providing support and recognition and in developing mutual respect.

Advancement is the method by which we promote and encourage the ongoing involvement and commitment that keeps members coming back for more. It works best when it is built into a unit’s program so that simply participating leads to meaningful achievement and recognition—and to a continually improving readiness for more complex experiences. Note that the methods for Cub Scouting, Venturing, and Sea Scouts are very similar to those of Boy Scouting but worded differently to take into account the needs of the members.

For more about these and the other methods of Scouting, see the leader manuals specific to each program.

Guide To Advancement § The Methods of Scouting.

Table of Contents

This is the table of contents for the 2019 edition of the Guide to Advancement:

Section 1. Introduction
Section 2. Advancement Defined
Section 3. Guidelines for Advancement and Recognition Committees
Section 4. The Mechanics of Advancement
Section 5. Special Considerations
Section 6. Electronic Advancement Reporting
Section 7. The Merit Badge Program
Section 8. Boards of Review: An Overview for All Ranks
Section 9. The Eagle Scout Rank
Section 10. Advancement for Members With Special Needs
Section 11. Appendix
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