FAQ – Advancement & Ranks

What is a Scout Rank?

Rank is an interesting word choice, clearly derived from Scouting’s origin as a program modeled after a military structure. Those holding a “higher rank” do not order around those of “lower rank”. In Scouting, the term “rank” is a PERSONAL measure of progress along the “Trail to Eagle”… or more appropriately thought of as a scout’s “trail to adulthood”.

When a boy or girl joins Scouting, his/her first POSITION is one of “Scout”. He/She then works on the first 3 RANKS; Tenderfoot, 2nd Class, and 1st Class. Within the requirements of these ranks, a Scout learns the SAFETY aspects of Scouting; basic first aid, how to choose a safe camp spot, how to properly dress for an outing, how to find his/her way with map/compass, what to do if he/she gets lost, etc…

Now a demonstrated “safe” Scout… he/she is ready for his next period of personal development, which is LEADERSHIP. In the pursuit of Star, Life, and Eagle ranks, a youth is learning (and then mastering) the skills of leadership. By holding leadership positions within the troop, he/she learns to lead, instruct, and inspire others. The scout learns to “give back” to others, and also learns his/her emerging place in Society as a citizen.

How does a Scout advance in Rank ?

Advancement in Scouting is COMPLETELY under the control of the Scout. As fast as he or she can learn the skills, he/she can get credit for them towards rank advancement.

TYPICALLY, it will take over a year to make it from Scout, to Tenderfoot, to 2nd Class, and then on to 1st Class. We do use a “1st Class in the 1st Year” agenda to keep newer scouts focused (and soften the “culture shock” from coming from a Cub Scout Pack to a Scouts BSA Troop).

A Scout can work on the requirements for rank IN ANY ORDER, but his or her actual progression through the ranks must be sequential. Some of the rank requirements have SET TIMES that must be met before he or she can get credit for them and advance. These are clearly outlined in the back pages of the Scout Handbook.

A scout has until his/her 18th birthday to reach Eagle and/or participate in the Scouts BSA program. Reaching Eagle is NOT an easy task and requires an abundance of effort and self-motivation. Encouragement at home is CRUCIAL to a scout’s success towards his Eagle Rank.

What is a Scoutmaster Conference?

After a Scout completes all the required tasks towards his/her next badge of rank, the next step is for the Scout to meet with the Scoutmaster for a “Scoutmaster’s Conference”.

The Scoutmaster’s Conference is a chance for the Scoutmaster to make sure all requirements are signed off, and then engage in a comfortable, yet detailed, discussion on how the Scout is feeling about the Program and how Scouting is fitting into his/her life as a whole (this IS a character building program, if you didn’t know.) The Scoutmaster wants to hear from the Scout exactly what he/she likes, doesn’t like, might want to do different, etc. The Scoutmaster wants to know what are the Scout’s ambitions in Scouting and in “life”. The ultimate goal is to make sure the Scouting experience is of real benefit to the Scout’s development.

Once the Scoutmaster is convinced the Scout is ready to move forward towards the next rank, the Scoutmaster will direct the Scout to meet with members of the Committee, where a similar meeting will take place. This is known as a Board of Review (see below).

As mentioned above, advancement in Scouting is STRICTLY the responsibility of each individual Scout. Through his/her Patrol Leader, he/she should voice his desire for trip destinations, activities, and opportunities to complete the various rank requirements and attend trips that HE/SHE finds exciting and thrilling. If advancement opportunities are provided in Troop Meetings, it is up to the Scout to check his/her book, with the mentoring of the Scoutmaster/Assistant Scoutmster, to see which requirements can be covered/checked off during the meeting.

What if a Scout is not advancing?

At meetings and on camping trips, AMPLE opportunity is made to complete work and FREQUENT reminders are made by the Scoutmasters to encourage the scouts to “step up” to make the most of their opportunities.

Periodically, all scouts will attend a Board of Review (BOR) (see below). Scouts advancing to their next rank MUST attend the BOR as a requirement, but the Advancement Chair is also responsible for scheduling periodic BORs for Scouts who are NOT advancing to inquire as to the reason they are not progressing, or finding out what is “missing” in the Program.

Scouts (with/without their parents) are free to inquire AT ANY TIME about advancement to the Scoutmaster or his Assistant Scoutmasters. Ultimately, the SCOUT is responsible….. that’s what makes the “Eagle” rank so significant and valuable. Attaining “Eagle” tells the world, that this is a young man or woman who is responsible and a leader.

What is a Board of Review?

After a Scout completes his/her Scoutmaster Conference, he/she is to appear before a Board of Review. Amazingly, it functions just like a job or private high school interview (this is not by accident) where the Scout will basically be addressing two specific topics:

– How is the Program (including adult leaders) running, and is there anything the Committee should/need to do to make the Program better?

– Why does the Scout feel as though he/she has earned his rank and is ready to move forward to the next rank?

There will be several questions put to the Scout by 3 to 5 Committee members comprising the Board, but ultimately, the two questions above are what is being addressed.

A Scout will not be asked to tie a square knot, but may be asked “which knot was the hardest, and how did you get yourself to finally learn it?”

Like a job interview, the Scout MUST come properly dressed; either wearing the full (clean and presentable) BSA Field Uniform (see above) or if not possible, neat and clean in appearance.

After meeting with the Scout, the Board will debate, and if they are in unanimous agreement, will allow the rank advancement to be recognized.