Who Can Join? - Joining Requirements
It is the philosophy of Scouting to welcome all eligible youth, regardless of gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or gender identification, who are willing to accept Scouting's values and meet any other requirements of membership.
Youth can be Scouts if they have completed the fifth grade and are at least 10 years old, OR have earned the Arrow of Light Award and are at least 10 years old, OR are age 11 but have not reached age 18.
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 Scouts BSA 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 may be earned by registered Scouts, including Lone Scouts, and by qualified Venturers or Sea Scouts who are not yet 18 years old. Venturers and Sea Scouts qualify by achieving First Class rank as a Scout or Lone Scout (or as a Varsity Scout prior to Jan. 1, 2018). The only exceptions for those older than age 18 are related to Scouts registered beyond the age of eligibility and those who have been granted time extensions to complete the Eagle Scout rank.
Members of Older Scout Patrols (formerly called Venture Patrols) within Scouts BSA 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 Scouts BSA Requirements which lists the current requirements for all Scouts BSA 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 Scouts BSA ranks) is as follows:
184.108.40.206 Changes to Requirements
Advancement requirements change from time to time. For Scouts BSA, check the latest edition of the Scouts BSA Requirements book. Once a new or revised requirement appears in that publication, which is released annually, any Scout beginning work on the 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 introduced in a reprinting of the Scouts BSA Handbook after the annual release of the Scouts BSA Requirements book, then the Scout has until the following December 31 to decide what to do. The Scout may continue—or begin work—using the old requirements, or may switch to—or begin work—using the new requirements. Any Scout who chooses to use the old requirements may continue using them until the rank has been completed. Sometimes, however—especially for more significant changes—the Scouts BSA Handbook, the Scouts BSA 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 Cub Scouting, Venturing, or Sea Scouts, revisions to rank or Venturing award requirements are introduced in the youth handbook. Unless the handbook says differently, the following applies: The member has until the next January 1 to decide whether to continue work—or to begin work—on the old requirements, or to switch to— or begin work—using the new requirements. Unless otherwise stated in the youth handbook or through official communications from the National Council, if a Cub Scout, Venturer, or Sea Scout chooses to use the old requirements, he or she may continue using them until the rank or award is completed.
For handling changes to merit badge requirements, see “What to Do When Requirements Change,” 220.127.116.11.
A former member who rejoins a BSA program, still as a youth member, may carry on in the advancement and pick up where they left off, but will not receive 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 the individual was ineligible to earn as a youth member under the rules in effect at that time.
In addition, as noted above, 2019 Scouts BSA Requirements Booklet has this statement:
The requirements listed in this Scouts BSA Requirements book for rank advancement, Eagle Palms, and merit badges are the official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America and are effective Jan 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2019. However, the requirements on the following pages might not match those in the Scouts BSA handbooks and the merit badge pamphlets, because this publication is updated only on an annual basis. The most current and any updated merit badge requirements can be found at www.scouting.org/meritbadges.
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 Scouts BSA Requirements lists the official merit badge requirements. However, those requirements might not match those in the Scouts BSA Handbook, the merit badge pamphlets, and the requirements listed at www.scouting.org/meritbadges because the Scouts BSA Requirements book is updated on an annual basis. When new or revised merit badge requirements appear in the Scouts BSA Requirements book, any Scout beginning work on a merit badge must use the requirements as stated therein. However, if changes to merit badge requirements are introduced in a revised merit badge pamphlet or at www.scouting.org/meritbadges during the year after the Scouts BSA Requirements is released, then the Scout has through the end of that year to decide which set of requirements to use.
Once work has begun, the Scout may continue using the requirements he or she started with until completion of the badge. Alternatively, the Scout may choose to switch to the revised requirements. Sometimes, however— especially for more significant changes—the Scouts BSA Handbook, the Scouts BSA Requirements book, www. scouting.org/meritbadges, 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.
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 Scouts BSA 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 youth registered in the Venturing Program or Sea Scouting.
- Any Venturer or Sea Scout who has achieved the First Class rank as a Scout or Lone Scout (or as a Varsity Scout prior to Jan. 1. 2018) may continue advancement up to their 18th birthday toward the Star, Life, and Eagle Scout ranks, and Eagle Palms. Qualified Venturers and Sea Scouts must meet the requirements as prescribed in the official Scouts BSA handbooks and the Scouts BSA 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 or Sea Scout 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. Eagle Scout boards of review are conducted in accordance with the Guide to Advancement and procedures established by the local council.
Explorers (participants in the Exploring program) are ineligible for Scouts BSA advancement unless they are also registered as members of a Scouts BSA Troop, a Venturing Crew, and/or a Sea Scout Ship, or as a Lone Scout.