Merit Badge FAQ

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Here are answers to Frequently Asked Questions based on the Merit Badge Policies. Printable pdf version of this page.   Discussion Forum


Is the Scout Handbook all I need to know about Advancement?

No. As a corporation, the BSA National Council has Bylaws that provide the most important rules for the corporation. Next come the Corporate Polices, then their support documents, and finally other documentation, handbooks, and manuals. See the Bookshelf for a current list of online and printed references.

For Advancement under the BSA National Council, the precedence of documentation is:

  1. Bylaws (and Rules)
  2. Advancement Committee Policies #33088 (including key Bylaws)
  3. Policy support documents such as the:
    Boy Scout Requirements #33215
    Eagle Scout Application #58-728
    Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook #18-927
    Guide for Merit Badge Counselors, etc.
  4. Handbooks, etc.: Boy Scout Handbook Scoutmaster Handbook
Should Scouts really read the Merit Badge Book (Pamphlet)?
Yes. "You should read the merit badge pamphlet on the subject." (p. 22) [1]
Can a counselor change the requirements?
"No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from an advancement requirement." (p. 3, 23, 26, 34, etc.) [2]
Can summer camps or anyone else add age requirements to merit badges?
No. " Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time." (p. 22) [1]
Can summer camps or anyone else add rank requirements to merit badges?
No. "You don't need to have had rank advancement to be eligible." (p. 22) [1]
Can a counselor modify a requirement for a Scout who has a disability?
No. "Advancement for Boy Scouts with Disabilities - All current requirements for an advancement award (ranks, merit badges, or Eagle Palms) must actually be met by the candidate. There are no substitutions or alternatives permitted except those which are specifically stated in the requirements..." (p.40) [2]
"The Eagle Scout rank may be achieved by a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified* Venturer who has a physical or mental disability by qualifying for alternate merit badges. This does not apply to individual requirements for merit badges. Merit badges are awarded only when all requirements are met as stated."(p.43) [2]
Can a counselor declare a Scout to have Special Needs?
No. "The local council must approve these registration on an individual basis." (p.40) If the Scout cannot complete a required merit badge, the Council is to select “ alternate merit badges of such a nature that they are as demanding of effort as the required merit badges." (p. 43) [2]
Do Scouts have to use a Merit Badge Application 34124A?
No. There is no requirement like this except that at summer camp, "partial credit should be noted on the Application for Merit Badge..." (p. 34) [2]
Does work have to be done after the Merit Badge Application is started?
No. Under Boy Scout Advancement, the Four Steps of Advancement section shows that: "1. The Boy Scout learns. 2, The Boy Scout is tested..." (p. 24) [2] Many merit badges do have certain requirements that can only be done with the approval of the counselor. Others require certain work to be done with "your troop." But unless stated otherwise, there is no requirement that work must be done since a merit badge was started, or since becoming a Scout, etc. You cannot add requirements. (p. 26) [2]
Can a merit badge be taken away?
A merit badge cannot be taken away once it has been earned, "provided the counselor is a registered counselor for the merit badge." (p. 26) [2] Also a merit badge application can’t list the Counselor as “Pixley Fire Dept.” A fire department can’t be registered to counsel a merit badge.
Do all merit badge counselors have to be trained & approved?
Yes. "All merit badge counselors, even those who serve only one unit, must be trained and approved by the Council and District advancement committees and be registered with the council." (p.14) [2]
Must registered adult leaders register again to also be merit badge counselors?
Yes. "All Merit badge counselors must…register as a merit badge counselor…" (Code 42). (p. 13-14) [2]
Who selects a counselor?
"Your Scoutmaster will give you the name of a person from a list of counselors." (#33215 p. 22) [1]
Is there a limit to how many merit badges can one person can counsel?
No. "There is no restriction or limit on the number of merit badges an individual may counsel but they must be approved for each specific merit badge." (p. 13) [2]
Can a merit badge counselor counsel their own son or relative?
Yes. "An approved counselor can counsel any youth member, including his or her own son, ward, or relative." (p. 13) [2]
Can a Scout under 18 teach merit badges?
Yes. "Camp staff members who are qualified in the subject and are younger than age 18 may assist the merit badge counselor with instruction...However regardless of the class format, each Scout must be tested individually by the counselor to ensure completion of the badge's requirements." (p. 34) [2]
Can someone require or prohibit Merit Badge Workbooks?
No. Requiring or prohibiting Merit Badge Workbooks is adding a requirement.(p. 26) [2]
If a counselor covers a requirement does a Scout still have to be tested?
Yes. "In the end, the Scout must be reviewed individually by the counselor..." (p. 24). [2]
Must a Scout complete all merit badge requirements within a year?
No. "Any registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout may earn these awards until his 18th birthday."(p. 24). [2]
Also, "There is no time limit for completion of merit badges other than age 18."(p. 34). [2]
Can Scouts earn partial credit for a merit badge at a summer camp?
Yes. "Partial completion of merit badges should be credited to a Scout on the Application for Merit Badge and given to the Scoutmaster at the end of the week." (p. 34) [2]
Do we have to turn in an Advancement Report to buy merit badges?
Yes. "Badges of rank, merit badges, and Eagle Palms are restricted items. These items may not be sold or distributed unless the Advancement Report, No. 34403B, has been properly filled out and has been submitted to the local council office." (p. 34) [2]
Should we wait until the next court of honor to present the merit badge?
No. "Presentation of merit badges and rank badges should not wait until the next court of honor; awards and badges should be presented at the next meeting after they have been earned." (p. 25) [2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Boy Scout Requirements ISBN 3017634452
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 Advancement Committee Policies #33088 Bookshelf

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