The procedures for earning and receiving Merit Badges can be found in the Introduction to Merit Badges. Current requirements for all Merit Badges can be found on our Merit Badge Requirements pages. The requirements for all Merit Badges are listed in the 2013 Boy Scout Requirements book (#33216- SKU-616334).
A list of all Merit Badges, with the pamphlet stock numbers, copyright and latest revision dates, and the date of the most recent revision to the requirements is also available.
Age Requirement Eligibility
Merit badges, badges of rank, and Eagle Palms are for boys who are registered Boy Scouts or Varsity Scouts. Any registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout may earn these awards until his 18th birthday. Any Venturer or Seacout who achieved the First Class rank as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout in a troop or team may continue working for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks and Eagle Palms while registered as an Venturer up to his 18th birthday.
Varsity Letters and Pins, and the Denali Award
Older Scouts (ages 14 - 18) may participate in Venture Patrols in Boy Scout Troops, or in separate units known as Varsity Scout Teams. In addition to Rank Advancements, members of Varsity Teams may earn a Varsity Letter, and Activity Pins for a series of Sports and "Ultimate Adventures". A list of the sports and activities for which pins may be earned is included on the Varsity Letter page. Members of Varsity Scout Teams that have earned the Varsity Letter may also earn the Denali Award.
Members of Venture Patrols within Boy Scout Troops are NOT eligible for Venturing and/or Sea Scouting awards unless they are also registered in a Venturing Crew and/or Sea Scout Ship, and then they may earn those awards only in the Venturing/Sea Scouting units.
Boy Scout Requirements Book
On a regular basis, Boy Scouts of America issues a Booklet, entitled Boy Scout Requirements which lists the current requirements for all Boy Scout Rank Advancements, Merit Badges, and Special Opportunities, and some supporting information. The introduction to these books (on the inside front cover) contains the following, which should be read carefully:
The requirements for rank advancement, Eagle Palms, and merit badges are effective January 1, 2013, through December 2013. The requirements listed in this book are the official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America. 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. These merit badge requirements also appear on the BSA’s official website (http://www.scouting.org). The requirements posted on the website will coincide with this publication and will be updated at the same time, only on an annual basis.
If a Scout has already started working on a merit badge when a new edition of the pamphlet is introduced, he may continue to use the same merit badge pamphlet and fulfill the requirements therein to earn the badge. He need not start over again with the new pamphlet and possibly revised requirements.
No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or to subtract from, any advancement requirements. For more detailed information, see the Guide to Advancement.
Revisions to rank and/or merit badge requirements
The Guide to Advancement, in section 188.8.131.52, provides the rules regarding how to handle rank advancements when the requirements change. That information (relative to Boy Scout ranks) is as follows:
184.108.40.206 Changes to Requirements
Advancement requirements change from time to time. For Boy Scouting and Varsity Scouting, check the latest annual edition of Boy Scout Requirements. Once a new or revised requirement appears in that publication, which is released each January, any Scout beginning work on his next rank or Eagle Palm must use the new or revised requirement as stated there.
If a new or revised rank or Eagle Palm requirement is first introduced in a reprinting of the Scout Handbook after the January release of the Boy Scout Requirements book, then the Scout has until the following January 1 to decide what to do. He may either continue—or begin work—using the old requirements, or he may switch to—or begin work—using the new requirements. If he chooses to use the old requirements, he may continue using them until he has completed the rank. Sometimes, however—especially for more significant changes—the Scout Handbook, the Boy Scout Requirements book, or official communications from the National Council may set forth a different procedure that must be used and may establish a date by when use of the old requirements must cease.
For handling changes to merit badge requirements, see “What to Do When Requirements Change,” 220.127.116.11.
If BSA membership eligibility rules change, and as a result a former member rejoins a BSA program, still as a youth member, then that youth may carry on in the advancement program, picking up where he left off when last he was a member, but not receiving credit for activities while not registered. A former member who is no longer eligible to participate in a BSA program as a youth member due to age, for example, can neither receive credit for completing advancement requirements nor be awarded any advancement-oriented recognition such as ranks or merit badges, etc., that under the rules in effect at the time of his youth membership he was ineligible to earn.
In addition, the 2013 Boy Scout Requirements Booklet has this statement:
The rank requirements in this book are official as of January 1, 2013. If a Scout has started work toward a rank before that date using requirements that were current before January 1, 2013, he may complete that rank using the old requirements. Any progress toward a rank that is begun after January 1, 2013, must use the requirements as they are presented in this Boy Scout Requirements book.
Similarly, the Guide to Advancement, in section 18.104.22.168, covers the rules regarding how to handle merit badges when those requirements change. That information is as follows:
22.214.171.124 What to Do When Requirements Change
The current annual edition of Boy Scout Requirements lists the official merit badge requirements. Once new or revised merit badge requirements appear in this publication, which is released each January, any Scout just beginning work on a merit badge must use the requirements as stated there.
If changes to merit badge requirements are introduced in a revised merit badge pamphlet after the January release of the Boy Scout Requirements book, then the Scout has until the following January 1 to decide what to do. He may continue—or begin work—using the old merit badge requirements and the old pamphlet; or he may switch to—or begin work—using the new requirements and the new pamphlet. Unless it is otherwise stated in the merit badge pamphlet, Boy Scout Requirements, or official communications from the National Council, if a Scout chooses to use the old merit badge requirements and pamphlet, he may continue using them until he has completed the badge.
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.
The authoritative source for all merit badge requirements is the current year’s Boy Scout Requirements book.
12th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook (34622)
The current edition of the Boy Scout Handbook is the 12th edition, which was issued in the summer of 2009. That book contained new requirements for each rank, which did not officially take effect until January 1, 2010. Scouts working toward ranks in 2009 could use the new requirements, or could continue to use the old requirements, at their option. If a Scout had started work toward a rank before January 1, 2010, using requirements that were current before January 1, 2010, he could complete that rank only using the old requirements. Any progress toward a rank that began after January 1, 2010, must use the requirements as they are presented in the Boy Scout Handbook (34622) or in the Boy Scout Requirements book.
2013 Edition of Boy Scout Requirements (33216 - SKU 616334)
The 2012 edition of Boy Scout Requirements includes changes to the Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle rank requirements, a very minor change to the wording of Joining (Scout) requirement 7, and changes to 21 merit badges (Astronomy, Automotive aitenance, Bird Study, Chess), Citizenship in the Community, Communication, Composite Materials, Dog Care, Emergency Preparedness, Fire Safety, Fishing, Gardening, Hilinh, Home Repairs, Law, Oceanography, Orienteering, Photography, Safety, Wilderness Survival, and Wood Carving), plus the requirements for the 2 new merit badges which were released in 2012 (Kayaking and Search and Rescue). In addition, the Alternate Requirements for Eagle Scout rank were rewritten. The booklet also contains announcements regarding the new Sustainability merit badge, which will become available later in 2013, and the upcoming (January 1, 2014) change to require Cooking merit badge for the Eagle Scout rank.
The list of Merit Badge Pamphlets on the inside back cover lists the most recent publication dates for each of the merit badge pamphlets. That list, with additional information on when the merit badge requirements were last changed, can be found by Clicking here.
The details on all of these revisions can be found at 2013 Advancement Changes
All of the Merit Badge pamphlets were reissued, with new stock numbers, on August 1, 2008. In many of them, the only changes were the addition of color to the pamphlet contents and covers, while others have had major or minor changes to the text and/or requirements. If the copyright date of a new version pamphlet is prior to 2008, the new pamphlet contains the same information as the older edition, and the older edition may still be used. If the copyright date is 2008 or later, the information has changed, and the old pamphlet should not be used.
We have prepared analyses of the revisions in the Requirements Books in each year since 1995. These earlier analyses can be found at 2012 Advancement Changes, 2011 Advancement Changes, 2010 Advancement Changes, 2009 Advancement Changes, 2008 Advancement Changes, 2007 Advancement Changes, 2006 Advancement Changes, 2005 Advancement Changes, 2004 Advancement Changes, 2003 Advancement Changes, 2002 Advancement Changes, 2001 Advancement Changes, 2000 Advancement Changes, 1999 Advancement Changes, 1998 Advancement Changes, 1996 Advancement Changes, and 1995 Advancement Changes.
Definitions of "Active Participation", "Demonstrate Scout
"Serve Actively ... in ... Positions of Responsibility"
The requirements for Star, Life, Eagle, and Eagle Palms all include a requirement to "Be active in your troop and patrol ..." The Guide to Advancement now contains an extensive section on how to determine whether the Scout has met the requirement. Rather than duplicate that information here, please click here to see the information.
Demonstrate Scout Spirit:
The requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle Palms all include a clause to "Be active in your troop and patrol ...", and the requirements for Eagle contain a similar clause, "Demonstrate that you live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law ...." The Guide to Advancement now also contains an section on how to determine whether the Scout has met this requirement, too. Rather than duplicate that information here, please click here to see the information.;
Serve Actively ... in ... Positions of Responsibility
The requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle all include a requirement to "Serve Actively ... in ... Positions of Responsibility" The Guide to Advancement now contains an extensive section on how to determine whether the Scout has met this requirement as well. Rather than duplicate that information here, please click here to see the information.
Advancement Transfers for Foreign Scouts
Questions arise occasionally on whether a Scout moving to the USA from another country can use the advancements he had earned in that country toward advancement in a BSA Troop or Team. For the answer, click here.
The following requirements apply to boys, including Sea Scouts, registered in the Venturing Program.
- Any male Venturer or Sea Scout who has achieved the First Class rank as a Boy Scout in a troop or Varsity Scout in a team may continue advancement toward Star, Life and Eagle Scout ranks and Eagle Palms up to his 18th birthday.
- He must meet the requirements as prescribed in the official Boy Scout Handbook and the current Boy Scout Requirements book.
- The Venturer or Sea Scout may fulfill leadership requirements by serving as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, quartermaster, historian, den chief, guide, webmaster, Leave No Trace trainer, boatswain, boatswain's mate, yeoman, purser, or storekeeper.
- The Scoutmaster conference will be conducted by the Advisor or Skipper.
- As the Venturer meets requirements for the Star and Life ranks or Eagle Palms, a board of review will be conducted by the crew or ship committee.
- The Eagle board of review should follow the procedures established by the local council.
Explorers (participants in the Exploring program of the Learning for Life Corporation) are ineligible for Boy Scout advancement unless they are also registered as members of a Boy Scout Troop, a Varsity Scout Team, a Venturing Crew, and/or a Sea Scout Ship.