Merit Badge policies

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Scouts BSA Advancement policies cover Merit Badges, Summer Camp,
Scout Spirit, Active, Special Needs, Eagle Projects, Scoutmaster Conferences,
Boards of Review, Appeals, Courts of Honor, Time Extensions, and more.

Discussion Forum

For a summary of the most common questions and answers, see Merit Badge FAQ.


Key Rules

  • "Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time. You don't need to have had rank advancement to be eligible."
  • "The Scoutmaster will give you the name of a person from a list of counselors."
  • "You must have another person with you at each meeting with the merit badge counselor."
  • "You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated—no more and no less. You are expected to do exactly what is stated in the requirements."
  • Note that some Merit Badges Require Prior Approval‎ for certain requirements. The rest do not: " Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time...You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated—no more and no less." - Boy Scout Requirements p. 22 - 23.
  • The use of Merit Badge Worksheets cannot be added as a requirement by a counselor.
  • See the Merit Badge FAQ for answers to many common questions.
Boy Scout Requirements , pp. 22-23


The official source for the information shown in this is:
Boy Scout Requirements, 2018 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #641568)

You can learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers as you earn merit badges. There are more than 135 merit badges, and any Scout, or any qualified Venturer or Sea Scout may earn any of these at any time.

Pick a Subject. Talk to your unit leader about your interests. Read the requirements of the merit badges you think might interest you, and pick one to earn. Your leader will give you the name of a person from a list of counselors. These individuals have special knowledge in their merit badge subjects and are interested in helping you.

Scout Buddy System. You must have another person with you at each meeting with the merit badge counselor. This person must be either another registered adult or the parent/guardian of the Scout.[Note 1]

Call the Merit Badge Counselor. Get a signed Application for Merit Badge, No. 34124 or No. 34130,[Note 2] from your unit leader. Get in touch with the merit badge counselor and explain that you want to earn the badge. The counselor may ask to meet you to explain what is expected and to start helping you meet the requirements. You should also discuss work you have already started or possibly completed.

At the first meeting, you and your merit badge counselor will review and may start working on the requirements. In some cases, you may share the work you have already started or completed.

Unless otherwise specified, work on a requirement can be started at any time. Ask your counselor to help you learn the things you need to know or do. You should read the merit badge pamphlet on the subject. Many troops, schools, and public libraries have them.

Show Your Stuff. When you are ready, call the counselor again to make an appointment. When you go, take along the things you have made to meet the requirements. If they are too big to move, take pictures or have an adult tell in writing what you have done. The counselor will test you on each requirement to make sure you know your stuff and have done or can do the things required.

Get the Badge. When the counselor is satisfied you have met each requirement, he or she will sign your application. Give the signed application to your unit leader so your merit badge emblem can be secured for you.

Merit badge requirements are revised as needed to reflect updated information and technology. Refer to the latest Scouts BSA Requirements book for merit badge requirement updates. The current Scouts BSA Requirements book is available from your local Scouting merchandise distributor. It may also be ordered online at

Requirements. You are expected to meet the requirements as they are stated—no more and no less. You must do exactly what is stated in the requirements. If it says “show or demonstrate,” that is what you must do. Just telling about it isn’t enough. The same thing holds true for such words as “make,” “list,” “in the field,” and “collect,” “identify,” and “label.”

The requirements listed [in the Scouts BSA Requirements book] are the current and official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America. However, the requirements [in the Scouts BSA Requirements book] might not match those in the Scouts BSA Handbooks and the merit badge pamphlets, because [the Scouts BSA Requirements book] is updated only on an annual basis.

If a new edition of a merit badge pamphlet is introduced with updated requirements after the Scouts BSA Requirements book has been released, a Scout who is starting the badge may choose to follow either set of requirements until the end of the year. At the start of the new year, Scouts who are beginning must use only the new requirements.[Note 3]

If a Scout has already started working on a merit badge when a new edition of the pamphlet is introduced, they may continue to use the same pamphlet and fulfill the requirements therein to earn the badge. They need not start over again with the new pamphlet and revised requirements.

There is no time limit for starting and completing a merit badge, but all work must be completed by the time a Scout turns 18.

Merit Badges – Boy Scouts of America
  1. The 2019 Guide to Advancement states "Youth should be encouraged to bring a buddy, such as a friend, parent, guardian, brother, sister, other relative—or, better yet, another Scout working on the same badge."
  2. Erratum: According to product number 34130 is not an application for merit badge. Instead Scout Shops offer merit badge applications in a pack of 25 via product number 646957
  3. See the Merit Badge revision dates list for details on the latest revision of each merit badge pamphlet.

All Scouts BSA awards, merit badges, badges of rank, and Eagle Palms are only for registered Scouts, including Lone Scouts, and and also for qualified Venturers or Sea Scouts who are not yet 18 years old. Venturers and Sea Scouts qualify by achieving First Class rank as a Scout or Lone Scout, or Varsity Scout (prior to January 1, 2018). The only exceptions for those older than age 18 are related to Scouts registered beyond the age of eligibility ("Registering Qualified Members Beyond Age of Eligibility," and those who have been granted time extensions to complete the Eagle Scout rank ("Time Extensions,"
Guide To Advancement § Scouting Ranks and Advancement Age Requirements (2019 Printing).

See:Merit Badges Requiring Prior Approval, Merit Badge Policies, and Merit Badge FAQ for more information.

Boy Scout Requirement Change Policy

The requirements listed in this Boy Scout Requirements book for rank advancement, Eagle Palms, and merit badges are the official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America and are effective Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018. However, the requirements on the following pages might not match those in the Boy Scout Handbook and the merit badge pamphlets, because this publication is updated only on an annual basis. The most current and any updated merit badge requirements can be found at

When new or revised merit badge requirements appear in this Boy Scout Requirements book, any Scout beginning work on a merit badge must use the requirements as stated therein. However, if changes to merit badge requirements are introduced in a revised merit badge pamphlet or at throughout the year, then the Scout has through the end of the current calendar year to decide which set of requirements to use.

Once a Scout begins work, he may continue using the requirements he started with until completion of the badge. Alternatively, he may choose to switch to the revised requirements. Sometimes, however—especially for more significant changes—the Boy Scout Handbook, the Boy Scout Requirements book,, or official communications from the National Council may set forth a different procedure that must be used. The National Council may establish a new date for when use of the existing requirements must cease.

There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge, although a counselor may determine so much time has passed since any effort took place that the new requirements must be used.

No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or to subtract from, any advancement or merit badge requirements. For more detailed information, see the Guide to Advancement, which is available online at [ ].

2018 Boy Scout Requirements, inside front cover

Advancement Policies

The following are from the Advancement Policies

The official source for the information shown in this article or section is:
Guide To Advancement, 2011 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #N/A)

Troop and Team Merit Badge Counselors

Troop and Team Merit Badge Counselors
As a practical approach to providing merit badge counselors, troop and team committees may establish their own lists of counselors, if necessary, at least for the required and more popular merit badges. The Troop Resource Survey, available from the council service center, can be used to identify parents and others in the neighborhood who can serve as merit badge counselors.

All merit badge counselors, even those who serve only one unit, must be approved by the council and district advancement committee, and counselors must register as a merit badge counselor (see "Qualifications of Counselors" above). However, it is essential that a district have the most complete list of merit badge counselors that is possible. Thus, troops and teams should be encouraged to share lists of counselors willing to assist districtwide or councilwide.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 14)

Advancement for Scouts with Disabilities

See: Youth Members With Special Needs
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.
Advancement Policies #33088, p. 40)

Alternate Merit Badges for the Eagle Scout Rank

See: Youth Members With Special Needs
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.
Advancement Policies #33088, p. 43)

Presentation of Merit Badges

Main article: Courts of Honor
Formal courts of honor should be conducted at least four times a year.
Advancement Policies #33088, p. 30.
Presentation of merit badges and rank badges should not await these courts of honor; awards and badges should be presented at the next meeting after they have been earned. Scouts are recognized again at a formal court of honor.
Advancement Policies #33088, p. 25

Merit Badges

Earning merit badges gives a Scout the kind of self-confidence that comes from overcoming obstacles to achieve a goal. Through the merit badge program, a Scout also learns career skills, develops socially, and may develop physical skills and hobbies that give a lifetime of healthful recreation.

The steps to follow in the merit badge program are outlined in the current Boy Scout Requirements. This books lists the requirements a Scout meets to earn each of the more than 100 merit badges that are available. Scouts must be tested individually, and they must meet all the requirements.

No additional requirements may be added.

A merit badge cannot be taken away once it has been earned, provided the counselor is a registered counselor for the merit badge.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 26)

Group Instruction of Merit Badges

Group Instruction of Merit Badges
The question arises as to whether it is permissible to have Scouts earn merit badges in groups. Many subjects may be presented to groups of Scouts without defeating one of the purposes of the merit badge plan -- working closely with a qualified adult.

The National Executive Board has approved this policy statement on merit badge counseling:

To the fullest extent possible, the merit badge counseling relationship is a counselor-Scout arrangement in which the boy is not only judged on his performance of the requirements, but receives maximum benefit from the knowledge, skill, character, and personal interest of his counselor. Group instruction and orientation are encouraged where special facilities and expert personnel make this most practical, or when Scouts are dependent on only a few counselors for assistance. However, this group experience should be followed by attention to each individual candidate's projects and his ability to fulfill all requirements.

In the end, the Scout must be reviewed individually by the counselor to ensure completion of the badges requirements.

In harmony with this policy, a troop or team may use merit badge counselors in unit meetings. The merit badge counselor can make a presentation covering the highlights of a merit badge subject. Scouts should then be given an opportunity to try some skill related to the badge. This introduction to a merit badge can spark an interest in the subject.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 26)

Advancement in Summer Camp

Main: Advancement in Summer Camp

Responsibility for Merit Badges

Clause 13. The responsibility for merit badges shall rest with the merit badge counselor approved by the local council and district advancement committee. Merit badge counselors shall be registered adult members of the Boy Scouts of America. The merit badge counselor shall prepare and qualify youth members. There shall be no board of review procedure for merit badges, but public recognition may be given at a unit court of honor or other suitable occasion.
Advancement Policies #33088, p. 17)

Approving Merit Badge Counselors and Publishing List of Counselors

The council advancement committee is responsible for approving merit badge counselors.

The council advancement committee reviews the district merit badge list and has it published at least once a year by the council service center. The list should include the current counselors' names, addresses, and telephone numbers. It should be mailed to every unit leader and commissioner, as well as printed in the council bulletin. (See section titled "

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 7)

Recruiting and Training Merit Badge Counselors and Publishing Lists

The essence of quality Scouting is having sufficient qualified adult leaders. Nowhere does this become more apparent than in the recruitment of adults to serve as merit badge counselors. Because counselors must be knowledgeable in specialized areas as well as able to have a good rapport with Scout-age boys, the district advancement committee has a challenging task in recruiting, approving, and training merit badge counselors, and in helping units to do the same.

All counselors must have an understanding of their role in Scout advancement. The district advancement committee is responsible for making the appropriate counseling material available to the counselors and for providing the essential training to the counselors recruited by the units and by the district.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 12)

The Merit Badge Counselor and the Boy Scout

The merit badge plan is based on the concept that a boy works with an adult knowledgeable in one or more fields, an experience invaluable to a Scout. The counselor introduces the Scout to subjects that may lead to a career choice or to a lifetime hobby.
Advancement Policies #33088, p. 12)

Merit Badges for Eagle Palms

See: Eagle Palms

Recruiting Merit Badge Counselors

Setting up a district list of merit badge counselors may seem at first like a staggering job, considering that more than a hundred merit badges are offered. But it is not so difficult if the job is approached logically.

Step 1: Begin by using the Work Sheet for Building a Merit Badge Counselor List, noting the badges required for the Eagle Scout Award since they obviously are "musts".

Step 2: List the merit badges most popular in the district or council, referring to the copies of the past few council charter renewals. List the subjects that will require few counselors in the district or council; perhaps counselors for these merit badges can be shared with a neighboring district, or a counselor can be requested at the council level to service all districts. Troops and teams should provide as many counselors as they can. Do not add troop or team merit badge counselors' names to the district list unless the individuals agree to be included on the list.

Step 3: Merit Badges are grouped into logical fields of activity. The district advancement committee should appoint a head counselor for each group. The head counselor recruits individual counselors, using knowledge of his or her field and suggestions or qualified candidates obtained from the district advancement committee.

As the district advancement or council advancement committee works down the list in choosing head counselors, record the names of prospective counselors for specific subjects.

A Guide for Recommending Merit Badge Counselors is used to obtain names of prospective counselors at parents' meetings and from schools and universities, service clubs, religious institutions, government agencies, industries, armed services, and the chartered organizations.

Special attention must be paid to areas within a district or council where qualified counselors are scarce.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 12)

Qualifications of Counselors

Qualifications of Counselors
Persons serving as merit badge counselors must be registered as a merit badge counselor with the Boy Scouts of America. They must be men and women of good character, age 18 or older, and recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects for which they are to serve as merit badge counselors, as well as the ability to work with Scout-age boys.

Register merit badge counselors by using the adult leader application. All merit badge counselors must be approved by the council advancement committee. Merit badge counselors are not required to pay a fee if they are only registered as merit badge counselors.

There is no restriction or limit on the number of merit badges an individual may be approved to counsel for, but they must be approved by the committee for each specific merit badge.

There is no limit on the number of merit badges a Scout may earn from one counselor.

An approved counselor may counsel any Scout, including his or her own son, ward, or relative.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 13)

Training Merit Badge Counselors

All merit badge counselors must be trained in the aims of Scouting and in advancement procedures.

The district or council advancement committee should train counselors, either as a group or individually.

A head counselor is an excellent position to coach the persons he recruits by having a conference with them. This is perhaps the most effective training a counselor can receive.

If a formal course can be arranged through letters and phone calls from head counselors, the dividends are great. The counselors in each subject group will have much in common despite their different backgrounds, and they will enjoy meeting each other and discussing mutual interests and problems. They also will enjoy meeting professional and volunteer Scouters with whom they will be associated.

Guide for Merit Badge Counselors is a valuable booklet for all counselors and should be made available to them by the district or council advancement committee.

A unit of training, Merit Badge Counselor Orientation, is available for training merit badge counselors. It can be used for a one-on-one session with a new counselor or adapted to a group session. If desired, the orientation also can be conducted as part of other Boy Scout training.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 13)

Maintaining a Current List of Merit Badge Counselors

The district or council advancement committee's responsibility does not end with the recruiting and training or merit badge counselors.

The district or council advancement committee (or one member selected to oversee counselors) will follow through to be sure that the merit badge counselors are working effectively and that boys seeking merit badges are finding the help they need. The committee will give on-the-job coaching if a counselor is not doing well, and will be alert for signs of difficulty that might be mentioned by unit commissioners, Scoutmasters, Varsity Scout Coaches, or unit committee members. District advancement committee members should attend district roundtables and huddles to update the list of merit badge counselors and to receive feedback.

The district or council list of counselors should be reproduced for distribution to troops and teams. When changes are made, these should be sent promptly to the units (or listed in the council bulletin) so that all units have readily available the names, addresses, and phone numbers of counselors. Lists are updated at least once a year, usually when councils and districts reregister.

With good word-processing equipment or computer capabilities, these merit badge counselor lists can be easily maintained and updated so that units can use current information.

Merit badge counselors (Code 42) are registered with the local council. As with all council members, their registration must be renewed annually.

As part of the local council charter renewal process, the council advancement committee sends a letter to existing merit badge counselors who are to continue for another year. This provides the council an opportunity, at least annually, to assure their merit badge counselor lists are updated. This also is an excellent opportunity to not reregister those persons identified as not following the policies and procedures of the Boy Scouts of America.

Advancement Policies #33088, p. 13-14)

Suggested items for the letter include:

  • Thank them for serving.
  • Tell them it's time to reregister.
  • Tell them the merit badges they are approved to counsel in.
  • Ask them if they wish to continue.
  • Enclose a response card or form for them to use.

See also

Scouts BSA portal
Venturing portal
Sea Scout portal
General Merit Badge information

Advancement Policies
Advancement (Report) Scouts BSA (Resources) Service Projects
Rules and Regulations First Class-First Year Eagle Scout Project
 What is Scout Spirit?  Scoutmaster Conferences Lifesaving awards
When is a Scout Active? Time Extensions Summer Camp
When is a Scout in Uniform? Boards of Review - Appeals Merit Badges, Events & FAQ
Scouts with Special Needs Advancement Campout  Cub Scouts  (Resources)
Religious Principle Courts of Honor
Books & References  12 Steps From Life to Eagle  Venturing & Sea Scouts  
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