What Every Scout Needs to know about Earning Merit Badges

Most scouts have the same goal when they join the scouting family which is to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.  Currently, there are over 135 Boy Scout Merit Badges in which scouts can learn a lot about a wide variety of topics.

These badges cover areas on sports, crafts, business, life skills and even areas that could be a possible career choice for the scout. The purpose of this post is to provide my insight as a troop leader on the process of earning Boy Scout Merit Badges.

When my son first joined his troop, I must admit I was a little confused on how rank advancements worked which include earning merit badges. As I became one of the Scout Master’s, I quickly learned that Scout Master’s needed to be an integral part of the merit badge process.

The same is true for every parent.  I encourage each parent to meet with your scout’s Scoutmaster and Committee Chair to discuss their specific process on earning merit badges. I can certainly promise that the key to earning merit badges parent involvement and understanding the process.

Advice from a Scout Leader…

Most scout’s typically wait until they achieve the rank of First Class before they focus on earning merit badges. The ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class are designed to teach your scout certain skills like learning the motto, knot tying, first aid, cooking etc. As they work on the Star, Life and Eagle rank, their focus will shift towards earning merit badges.

However, there is no rule that your scout can’t start on merit badges before reaching first class. I would recommend starting the first aid merit badge as this badge is a prerequisite for other merit badges like life saving.

Where to earn a LOT of Merit Badges

Summer camp is a great opportunity for scouts to start a wider variety of merit badges that may not be offered within the troop. As a scout leader, I strongly encourage every scout to attend summer camps and here’s why:

1. The first reason is if your scout is off to a slow start on rank advancements, most summer camps offer a first-year scout program that is focused on earning the first set of advancements. These first-year programs typically will also offer a couple of merit badges as well.

boy scout summer camp tents

2. Summer camps focus on earning Boy Scout Merit Badges. Most of the larger camps offer anywhere from 30-60 different merit badges. In addition, most will offer all the Eagle required merit badges too. Keep in mind that not every merit badge will be completed at camp and will need to be completed back home.

3. Since summer camps offer most Eagle required merit badges, I would have your scout sign up for as many of these badges they can handle in case your troop or council has limited counselor’s back home.  Keep in mind, once a merit badge has been started with an approved counselor, any adult can finish this badge with your scout. Keep in mind, you want your scout to have fun while at camp, so have your scout also pick out a couple of FUN merit badges too.

boy scout merit badges displayed on a wood slice

5 Step Process to Earn Merit Badges

Summer camp may not be an option for some scouts. In the case, below are the five steps your scout needs to take to earn a Boy Scout Merit Badge:

Step One

Your scout needs to identify a Boy Scout Merit badge they want to complete and get their unit leader to issue a blue card and help locate a merit badge counselor.  Most troops will have merit badge counselors, or you can find counselors at other local troops or the council office.

Step Two

Once a counselor is located, your scout will need to print of the merit badge worksheet and meet with the counselor to get started. Some counselors will set up a regular schedule if enough scouts are interested. If not, the counselor will give you guidance on how to complete.

Step Three

As your scout makes progress, each requirement needs to be signed off after they show they their understanding on that requirement.

Step Four

Once all the requirements are completed, they need to have the counselor sign off stating the merit badge requirements are completed.

Step Five

The completed blue card can now be turned in to your advancement chairperson so the merit badge can be issued to your scout.

Best of luck to your scout and remember to stay in contact with your scout to make sure they are on track. Check the BSA site for a current list of badges.

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