FAQ – Merit Badges

What is a Merit badge and What is the difference between Scout Ranks and Merit Badges?

Unlike Ranks, which are a PERSONAL measure of a scout’s progress along the “Trail to Eagle”…(Tenderfoot > 2nd Class > 1st Class >Star > Life > Eagle Merit Badges instead offer exposure to a diverse background of interests, adventures, and opportunities that Scouts may never experience IF NOT for the Scouting program (Aviation, Scuba, Reptile study, shooting sports, etc). In fact, it is not uncommon that exposure to a topic via the Merit Badge Program leads to life-long hobbies and career choices, as well as “needed skills” like Home Repair, Auto Mechanics, and Public Speaking. 

There are more than 135 Merit Badges available (21 of which are needed for Eagle), and to ensure that the Scouts are getting a taste of the opportunities available, the higher ranks require a set number of merit badges to be completed (including some designated as “Eagle required”). This being said, there is no limit on the number of Merit Badges a youth may earn.

Earning Badges:
Like for rank advancement, each SCOUT is responsible for informing the Scoutmaster (in advance) of his choice to begin working on a Merit Badge; the completion of which is up to HIM and his assigned Merit Badge Councilor.

Through INDEPENDENT work (with a friend or family member – to comply with Youth Protection) he will work with his MBC to complete Merit Badge requirements at his own pace.

How many merit badges can a Scout work on at the same time?
There is no limit to the number of merit badges a Scout can have “open” at one time. He may start working on Merit Badges the day he signs his registration form and has until his 18th birthday to complete the work.

Some units impose their own limits, but that is NOT BSA policy, and therefore, we do not endorse such restrictions. That being said, the idea is to LEARN about a particular topic through the Merit Badge Program. A boy will be best-served if he strives to complete the work for a badge in a short enough time frame that ALL the information/lessons remain relevant. Again, this is at the Scout’s discretion.

Can I keep working closely with my son?
If you mean “work with your son” like you did in Cub Scouts, the answer is NO. There is little 1-on-1 work as a Boy Scout. Make no mistake… You are welcome, but Boy Scouting is a new phase of his personal development. “Dads & Lads” was the Cub Scout model. Your presence helped to guide him, keep him under control, and reinforce the importance of “family”, but as a Boy Scout, he needs to focus more on himself, and on working with peers. He’s becoming a young man and needs to start interacting with other adults like the Scout Master, Assistant Scout Masters, and various Merit Badge Councilors. He also needs to become comfortable with working without adults hovering over him as he works with his patrol.

Can a a scout be “demoted” or have badges taken away?
Once a RANK or a Merit Badge has been earned, it can never be taken away. In addition, once a Merit Badge Councilor signs a “blue card” stating that the badge requirement has been completed, no one has the authority to overturn the decision or refuse to award the badge to the Scout. (BSA policy)

Firemen’ Chit and Toten’ Chip are safety badges and it is at the discretion of the Troop Leadership to revoke a Scout’s PRIVILEGES for fire-starting or knife/axe use. Should this ever happen, the corrective process is usually retaking the instructional course. Until that happens, a Scout is not permitted to carry/use a knife, nor may he start or tend a fire.

How do Scouts earn Merit Badges?
The day a boy signs his BSA application, he is eligible to start working on Merit Badges.

Completing a Merit Badge involves four people:
The Scout, the Scoutmaster, the Merit Badge Councilor (MBC), and the troop’s Advancement Chair.

The process:

  1. The Scout chooses a badge (or badges) that he’d like to work on (alone or with another Scout).
  2. The Scout informs the Scoutmaster of his intention to work on a badge, and is issued a “blue card” and given the contact information for a registered Merit Badge Councilor (MBC).  A MBC can be ANY registered MBC in any Council. He is not obligated to work with councilors in his home unit or Council.
    CONTRARY TO URBAN MYTH, the Scoutmaster can NOT deny any Scout the opportunity to work on any badge, nor can he delay the badge being awarded once the MBC signs the “blue card” showing that it is complete. Judgment as to whether a Scout successfully completed the badge requirements rests solely with the MBC.
  3. The Scout(s) contacts the MBC and make arrangements to meet as often as necessary to complete the badge requirements (following Youth Protection guidelines at all times). Upon the first meeting, the Scout presents the MBC with the blue card, which the councilor keeps so that he can update completion dates and keep track of the Scout’s progress.
  4. Upon completion, the MBC will sign all three segments of the blue card, and return it back to the Scout who in turn, presents it to the Scoutmaster for final signature indicating final recognition that all work is complete. Again, the Scoutmaster does NOT have the authority to deny, “retest”, or delay the formal completion of any MB work.
  5. The Scoutmaster will pass the signed segments along to the troop’s Advancement Chairperson who will record the work on the Troop and Council levels, and ensure the Scout is presented with his badge on the next possible opportunity. * * While NOT mandatory that a badge be presented right away, the BSA strongly encourages “instant recognition” for effort. The typical model is to present the badge by the next meeting, and present the “pocket card” during a formal presentation at the next Court of Honor.
  6. The Scout will be given 1 segment of his blue card which he must keep so that it can be produced when applying for his Eagle Rank. The Troop should also retain a segment for their records.

What badges are “Eagle Required” ?
There are a total of twenty-one Merit Badges required for the rank of Eagle. Twelve of these badges are Eagle Required “White Bands” (merit badges with white/silver border stitching around the edges). The remaining nine (or more if you choose) may be any badges from among the remaining 109 non-Eagle required “Green Band” merit badges (badges with green stitching around the border). While there are fifteen possible Eagle Merit Badges, there are some that are “optional”. Refer to the badge picture to clearly understand which badges qualify for Eagle, and which ones do not.

Earning MORE THAN ONE of the optional badges will NOT afford you the choice to NOT earn other required badges, but “extra” Eagle badges can be counted towards the mandatory total of twenty-one.