A Scout can begin working on merit badges at any rank; however, once a boy reaches First Class, Merit Badges become the main advancement tool. There are over 135 merit badges to choose from. Some badges, like Pets, Athletics, Theater and Citizenship, may be worked on in school or at home. Boys may work independently on merit badges that interest them. Leaders may help by allowing time to work on some badges during patrol meetings or days designated as Merit Badge Day. Camping offers many opportunities as well.
When a Scout is ready to begin work on a merit badge, he asks the Scoutmaster for the name of a counselor, and a “blue card“. The blue card is a merit badge application and records progress towards the completion of the merit badge. A Scout must get the Scoutmaster’s permission and a Blue Merit Badge Card BEFORE starting work on a badge. This allows leaders to follow up, while he works with a specific, approved counselor who has experience in the subject.
A useful resource to find out the requirements for particular merit badges is available online: http://meritbadge.org . For each merit badge there is also a merit badge booklet giving more detailed information about each subject. The troop has some of the more popular books available to lend to scouts. Other merit badge books are available for purchase at the NCAC Scout Shop and scoutstuff.org. The requirements do change from time to time so it is wise to check online to make sure the book reflects the current requirements.
When your son earns a merit badge or a rank advancement he will receive a Rank card or the completed “blue card” at the following Court of Honor along with his merit badge or rank pin. These cards are an official record of your son’s progress in Scouting and they should be kept in a safe place. A binder with plastic trading card inserts works well to keep the cards organized. Your son will be required to take this binder to each Board of Review. You may also save the programs from each Court of Honor which documents the achievement and the date of the Court of Honor.
Merit badge counselors are the key to success in the merit badge plan. They offer their time, experience, and knowledge to help guide Scouts in one or more of the merit badge subjects.
Parents, The Boy Scouts are always in need of more volunteers to serve as Merit Badge Counselors. If any of the currently offered merit badges are within your career area or interests, please consider registering to become a merit badge counselor.
Scouts, if you are aware of a teacher, or family friend who you think would make a good counselor, please recommend that they apply. No matter how expert a person is in the subject material, they MUST be a registered counselor before they can work with you on the merit badge.
The counselor’s responsibility is to
- Assist the Scout as he plans the assigned projects and activities to meet the merit badge requirements.
- Coach Scouts through interviews and demonstrations on how to do the required skills of the craft, business, or hobby.
- Certify the Scout after determining whether he is qualified for the merit badge.
A merit badge counselor may choose to work only with Scouts from their own unit, or agree to help other Scouts as well. Most local councils list merit badge counselors by district so that Scouts may call for appointments.
The number of Scouts requesting help is usually no burden to the counselor, since the number of counselors is normally determined by the popularity of the badge. Counselors schedule appointments at their convenience.
As a merit badge counselor, I agree to:
- Follow the requirements of the merit badge, making no deletions or additions, ensuring that the advancement standards are fair and uniform for all Scouts.
- Have a buddy present with each Scout at all instructional sessions.
- Renew my registration as a merit badge counselor annually if I plan to continue serving as a merit badge counselor.
For administrative purposes, Boy Scouts of America requires all merit badge counselors to register with their local council, by submitting an Adult Registration Application. If you are registering solely to serve as a merit badge counselor, there is no fee.
People serving as merit badge counselors, including those working at summer camp, must maintain registration with the Boy Scouts of America as merit badge counselors and be approved by the local council advancement committee for each of their badges. There are no exceptions. Before working with Scouts, counselors must have completed Youth Protection training within the last two years. They must be men or women of good character, age 18 or older, and recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects they cover. It is important, too, they have good rapport with Scout-age boys and unit leaders.