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 current Boy Scout Requirements book (#33216).
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. Any registered Boy Scout may earn these awards until his 18th birthday. Any Venturer or Sea Scout who achieved the First Class rank as a Boy Scout in a troop may continue working for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks and Eagle Palms while registered as an Venturer or Sea Scout up to his 18th birthday.
Varsity Letters and Pins, and the Denali Award
The Varsity Scout program has been discontinued as of January 1, 2018.
Older Scouts (ages 14 - 18) may participate in Older Scout Patrols in Boy Scout Troops, or could join separate units known as Varsity Scout Teams. In addition to Rank Advancements, members of Varsity Teams could 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 could be earned is included on the Varsity Letter page. Members of Varsity Scout Teams that had earned the Varsity Letter could also earn the Denali Award. All these recognitions have been discontinued.
Members of Older Scout Patrols (formerly called 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.
Annually, 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.
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, 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, as noted above, 2016 Boy Scout Requirements Booklet has this statement:
The requirements for rank advancement, Eagle Palms, and merit badges are effective Jan. 1, 2016, through December 2016. The requirements listed in this book are the official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America and will remain effective for the 2016 calendar year.
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.
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 registered in the Venturing Program or Sea Scouting.
- Any male Venturer or Sea Scout who has achieved the First Class rank as a Boy Scout in a troop, or as a Lone Scout, may continue advancement up to his 18th birthday toward the Star, Life, and Eagle Scout ranks, and Eagle Palms.
- He must meet the requirements as prescribed in the official Boy Scout Handbook and the current Boy Scout Requirements book.
- The Venturer may fulfill leadership requirements by serving as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, den chief, historian, guide, quartermaster, chaplain aide, or outdoor ethics guide.
- The Sea Scout may fulfill leadership requirements by serving as boatswain, boatswain’s mate, purser, yeoman, storekeeper, crew leader, media specialist, specialist, den chief, or chaplain aide.
- The unit leader conference will be conducted by the Advisor or Skipper. As the Venturer fulfills requirements for the Star and Life ranks, a board of review must be conducted by the crew or ship committee according to the procedures established by the National Council as published in the Guide to Advancement.
- 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 Venturing Crew, and/or a Sea Scout Ship.