Registered Merit Badge Counselor

So You Want to be a Merit Badge Counselor


People who are knowledgeable about the various Merit Badge subjects are selected, approved, and trained by Council and District Advancement Committees to serve as Merit Badge Counselors. For example, a Dentist might be asked to serve as a counselor for the Dentistry Merit Badge. A counselor must not only possess the necessary technical knowledge but also have a solid understanding of the needs, interests, and abilities of Scouts. A counselor must also be a registered adult with the BSA. (BSA FactSheet - Merit Badges) Read the Guide for Merit Badge Counselors which will answer the following questions about being a Merit Badge Counselor. Also take a look at the Guide for Merit Badge Counseling which will answer the following questions about Merit Badge Counseling and more.

  1. What are the Merit Badge Counselor's responsibilities?
  2. What is a Merit Badge?
  3. What do I agree to do?
  4. What is the process of earning a Merit Badge?
  5. How does the Merit Badge Counselor help?
  6. Where do you meet?
  7. How many at a time?
  8. Can you 'sell' your subject?
  9. Do you need a Merit Badge Pamphlet?

The steps to "Becoming a Merit Badge Counselor"

  1. You must be knowledgeable in the subject area of a specific Merit Badge, either by vocation, avocation or special training.
  2. Complete Youth Protection Training and send a copy of the training card along with your application. Check the Council Training Calendar (each month) for scheduled Youth Protection Training.
  3. Fill out the Orange County Council Merit Badge Counselor Application form Rev. 01/01/11, pdf 393 KB
  4. Fill out the BSA Adult Registration form. Use 42 for position code.
  5. Cost: There is NO CHARGE to register as a Merit Badge Counselor if you are just supporting the duties of a Merit Badge Couselor.
  6. Fill out the BSA Disclosure/Authorization form (included with the BSA Adult Registration form). Note: The Disclosure/Authorization form need only be submitted once for your initial Merit Badge Counselor registration.
  7. Send the 4 documents to either your District Advancement Chairperson, or Merit Badge Counselor Coordinator.
  8. The Orange County Council will have a background investigation conducted, which will take up to 6 weeks; whereupon, your District Advancement Chairperson will be advised if there was an issue with the background investigation.
  9. Your name and Merit Badge(s) will then be added to your District's Merit Badge list. The list is "PRIVATE" and shall not be reproduced beyond the District Advancement Chairperson/Merit Badge staff and the unit Scoutmaster and Troop Advancement Chairperson.
  10. During the 6 weeks it takes for the background check, get yourself trained. Contact your District Training Chairperson and ask for a Merit Badge Counselor Training session as a breakout at the next Roundtable.
  11. After you have completed all of the above steps, make sure your name and the names of the Merit Badge(s) you will counsel appears on your District's Merit Badge Counselor lists - contact your District Merit Badge Coordinator, or Scoutmaster or unit Committee Chair.


  1. BSA Adult Leader Application (No unit leader signatures are needed).
  2. Background Investigation form (included with the new BSA Adult Registration Application).
  3. OCCBSA Merit Badge Counselor Application also known as the Merit Badge Counselors Worksheet.
  4. On the BSA Adult Leader Application under Position Code, use "42" for Merit Badge Counselor. Complete all of the leader application and Merit Badge Counselor Application.

Yearly Reregistration Required

The National Council policy for Merit Badge Counselors is that unless a person specifically registers as a Merit Badge Counselor annually they are to be removed from the list of active Counselors. This is because over the past years, National has received up to 1,000 letters per month from the surviving spouses of Merit Badge Counselor's that they are still being called by Scouts. The renewal procedure for Merit Badge Counselors is [Need OCC Advancement Committee Policy if different-TBS]. Are you on the current list? Check your District's Merit Badge Counselor List to find out. Here is the link to find out who your District Advancement Chairs.

What this means: if you are not on your District's Merit Badge Counselor's list, then you most likely need to submit a new registration form as a Merit Badge Counselor if you haven't for the current year. Annually you will be contacted by a Merit Badge Coordinator in your Unit to confirm whether you are interested in continuing for the upcoming year and the opportunity to make any changes. There is no cost for this. If you do not have any changes, you will need only fill out the BSA Adult Application with position code of 42. If you have any changes in your Merit Badges list, then the Merit Badge Counselor Application will also need to be filled out listing all Merit Badges for which you wish to provide Counseling services. All forms must be forwarded to your District Advancement Chair for review and processing.

The Merit Badge Counselor is a key player in the Boy Scout advancement program. Whatever your area of expertise or interest — whether it is a special craft or hobby (basketry, leatherwork, coin collecting), a profession (veterinary medicine, aviation, engineering), or perhaps a life skill (cooking, personal management, communications) — as a Merit Badge Counselor, you can play a vital role in stirring a young man's curiosity about that particular topic.

By serving as a Merit Badge Counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so that Scouts can explore a topic of interest. If you are not yet a Merit Badge Counselor, it is easy to become a volunteer.

You will need to complete BSA Youth Protection Training in order to register with the BSA. This training can be done through the BSA's Online Learning Center or locally through the District training team. The Boy Scouts of America seeks to create a safe environment for young people and adult leaders to enjoy the program and related activities. BSA Youth Protection Training helps preserve that environment. The Scouting program emphasizes helping young men develop character, citizenship, and mental and physical fitness.

You will need to register with the Boy Scouts of America, through your BSA local Council. This entails contacting the local Council, District or unit, then obtaining, completing, and turning in the "BSA Adult Application."

The Council will then process the application. A background investigation is conducted on all applicants.

Understanding the Scouting Program.

The Aims of Scouting.

Among the handful of methods used to build on these aims of Scouting are adult association, leadership development, and advancement. Besides parents and relatives, schoolteachers, religious leaders, and possibly coaches, most Scout-age youth don't have much contact with many other adults or professionals. A Scout's association with his Merit Badge Counselors provides an excellent way for him to grow and gain confidence through exposure to quality adults who serve as positive role models and mentors to him. Meeting people from business and community leaders to trained specialists and enthusiastic hobbyists, a Scout can experience a chance for personal growth and a positive life-altering experience while in pursuit of a Merit Badge.

The Boy Scouts of America at a Glance.
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has maintained its purpose and mission to prepare youth to become responsible, participating citizens and leaders. Throughout the years, the Scout Oath and Law have served as the guiding light for BSA youth members. To help carry out its mission, the BSA relies on more than 300 local councils. These service centers operate autonomously, sort of like franchises. Every local council has its own support staff and operates under the guidance of a Scout Executive. To more efficiently serve its members, the local council is divided into districts, which are managed by District Executives. The district executive serves as the grassroots contact between the local council and its volunteers.

A Merit Badge Counselor Is ...

As a Merit Badge Counselor, your mission is to join fun with learning. You are both a teacher and mentor to the Scout as he works on a Merit Badge and learns by doing. By presenting opportunities for growth via engaging activities like designing a Web page (Computers), performing an ollie and a wheelie (Snowboarding), or fabricating rope (Pioneering), you can elevate a young man's interest in the Merit Badge subject. Just think: Your hands-on involvement could inspire a Scout to develop a lifelong hobby, pursue a particular career, or become an independent, self-supporting adult.

  1. A Scout first expresses an interest in a particular Merit Badge by letting his Scoutmaster or Unit Leader know.
  2. To get him started, the Scoutmaster or Unit Leader will give him a signed Application for Merit Badge (blue card) along with the name and telephone number of a District/Council approved Merit Badge Counselor for the Merit Badge of interest.
  3. The Scout then contacts the Merit Badge Counselor and makes an appointment.
  4. 4. The Merit Badge Counselor sets a date and time to meet with the Scout and his buddy, and may suggest the Scout bring the Merit Badge Pamphlet along with the Blue Card.
  5. Most local councils (including summer camps) use the Application for Merit Badge, or blue card, although it is not required. This tool just makes the record keeping easier for the Scout, the Merit Badge Counselor, and the Unit Advancement Chair. At summer camp, a Scout may receive partial credit for completion of a Merit Badge on the Blue Card, which goes to the Scoutmaster at week's end. Back home, the Scout would need to contact a Merit Badge Counselor for assistance with completing the rest of the requirements.
  6. 5. At the first meeting, the Scout and his Merit Badge Counselor review and start working on the requirements. In some cases, the Scout may share with the Merit Badge Counselor the work he has started or accomplished. As the Merit Badge Counselor, you and the Scout work out a tentative schedule for completing the requirements. You should consider both short-term and long-term goals, keeping other obligations (school, Scouting, sports, and so on) in mind, and set dates, times, and a location for future meetings. The number of meetings will depend on the difficulty of the requirements and the preparation and ability of the Scout.
  7. 6. Your duty is to be satisfied that each Scout who comes to you meets all the requirements for the Merit Badge you are coaching. You do this by helping Scouts overcome the different hurdles of the requirements and making them aware of the deeper aspects of the subject through their learning experience. You may tell about your own experiences to help positively reinforce the subject matter. However, you may not tack on new requirements or extra work. While you may guide and instruct a Scout on the subject matter, he must do the work himself.
  8. 7. As each requirement is completed, you will test the Scout individually, with his buddy present. If you are using a Blue Card, update this card as the Scout completes each requirement.
  9. 8. When the young man has completed all the requirements, you sign off on the Blue Card and the Scout returns the completed card to his Scoutmaster/Unit Leader.

Summer Camp Merit Badge Counselors

The same qualifications and rules for Merit Badge Counselors apply to council summer camp Merit Badge programs. All Merit Badge Counselors must be at least 18 years of age. Camp staff members under age 18 may assist with instruction but cannot serve in the role of the Merit Badge Counselor.

The Merit Badge Counselor assesses the Scout's knowledge to ensure he has completed all the required work — no more, and no less. You may not add to, delete from, or modify the Merit Badge requirements in any way, although certain considerations can be made for Scouts with disabilities.

Helpful Hints

    Here are some simple tips that every Merit Badge Counselor should keep in mind.
  1. Make the Scout feel welcome and relaxed.
  2. Stimulate the Scout's interest by showing him something related to the Merit Badge subject, but don't overwhelm him; remember, he is probably a beginner.
  3. Carefully review each requirement, start with easy skills or questions, and encourage practice.
  4. Insist that the Scout do exactly what the requirements specify. Many of the requirements involve hands-on activities that call for a Scout to show or demonstrate; make; list; discuss; or collect, identify, and label — and he must do just that.
  5. Don't make the requirement more difficult—or any easier—than stated. A Scout may undertake more activities on his own initiative, but he cannot be pushed to do so.
  6. During testing, the Scout might need help in a particular area or with a certain skill, and may need to be retested later to ensure the requirement has been fulfilled.
  7. Encourage self-evaluation and self-reflection, and establish an atmosphere that encourages the Scout to ask for help.
  8. Take a genuine interest in the Scout's projects, and encourage completion.

Training Summary

This self training module will guide new and potential Merit Badge Counselors through your responsibilities in the role and will give you an understanding of the methods of counseling Scouts. It is intended as a short orientation course for new Merit Badge Counselors before they begin working with Scouts.

Time Required 60 minutes.

Target Audience: New and potential Merit Badge Counselors

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:

* Understand the aims of Scouting, the BSA advancement process, and the Merit Badge Counselor's role.
* Know a Merit Badge Counselor's duties and responsibilities to the BSA and the Scout.
* Understand and complete the requirements to be a registered Merit Badge Counselor with the BSA.
* List some methods of counseling and coaching.
* Successfully guide a Scout through the Merit Badge process.

Required Materials

* Merit Badge Program Quiz (for each participant)
* Merit Badge Program Quiz Answers (for each participant)
* Adult Application, No. 28-501
* BSA Merit Badge Counselor Information form, No. 34405
* A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 34532
* Application for Merit Badge, No. 34124
* Sample Merit Badge pamphlets in a variety of subjects
* Boy Scout Requirements (current year), No. 33215

The Merit Badge Program Quiz is a precourse warm-up that allows participants to discover what they do or do not already know about being a counselor and focuses them mentally for the course.

Trainer: Distribute copies of the quiz to each participant and allow enough time for everyone to finish.

The Aims of Scouting

The Scouting program is an educational program aimed at teaching youth character development, citizenship, and mental and physical fitness. These aims of Scouting are accomplished by the use of eight fundamental methods:

* The ideals of Scouting (Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, Scout slogan)
* The patrol method
* The outdoors
* Advancement
* Association with adults
* Personal growth
* Leadership development
* The uniform

What Is Advancement?

Advancement is the process by which a Scout progresses from rank to rank in the Scouting program. It is simply a means to an end and not an end in itself. Everything done to advance and earn higher ranks is designed to help the Scout have an exciting and meaningful experience.

The advancement method is designed to encourage a young man to accomplish a progressive series of fun and educational tasks. Earning Merit Badges allows Scouts to explore many fields, helps them round out their skills, and perhaps introduces them to subjects that will become lifelong interests or rewarding careers.

What Is a Merit Badge?

A special part of a Scout's learning adventure, Merit Badges are awards presented to a Scout when he completes the requirements for one of the Merit Badge subjects. There are more than 100 Merit Badges a Scout may earn. The subject matters range from vocational and careers introduction to personal development, hobbies, sports, high adventure, citizenship, and life-skills development.

Every Merit Badge is designed to teach the Scout new skills while outwardly encouraging him to challenge himself and have fun in the process. Merit badges offer a range of difficulty over a breadth of subject matters, and a Scout is free to pursue any Merit Badge he wishes. The Merit Badge itself is a simple embroidered patch, but the intangible end result of earning it is that the Scout gains self-confidence from overcoming obstacles to achieve a goal.

Why Does the BSA Use Merit Badge Counselors?

One of the methods of Scouting is association with quality adults. Besides a Scout's parents and relatives, his schoolteachers, his religious leaders, and possibly his sports coaches, most Scout-age youth do not have much contact with many other adults or professionals. Merit Badge Counselors provide an excellent means for a Scout to grow through his exposure to outstanding adults who serve as examples and mentors to them. The opportunity to deal with business leaders, trained specialists, and experienced hobbyists while in the pursuit of a Merit Badge offers the Scout a chance for personal growth and possibly a life-altering experience.

Trainer: Ask participants if any of them were Scouts and, if so, whether any of the Merit Badges they earned influenced their choice of careers.

The BSA recognizes that the Merit Badge Counselor is the cornerstone to the Merit Badge program. By offering their time, experience, and knowledge to guide Scouts in one or more Merit Badge subjects, counselors help shape the future of our country. By assisting as the Scout plans projects and activities necessary to meet the Merit Badge requirements, and by coaching the Scout through interviews and demonstrations, the quality adult contact fostered by this working relationship can only enhance the Scout's self-confidence and growth.

What Is a Merit Badge Counselor?

A Merit Badge Counselor is both a teacher and a mentor to the Scout as he works on the Merit Badge. Merit Badge Counselors should be satisfied that each Scout under their guidance meets all the requirements set forth for the Merit Badge. In this sense, a Merit Badge Counselor is an examiner. In a larger sense, the real opportunity for a counselor lies in coaching—helping Scouts over the different hurdles of the requirements and helping make them aware of the deeper aspects of the subject from their knowledge and experience.

The Merit Badge Counselor may help a Scout by providing instruction and guidance on the subject matter. However, the counselor must not complete the Scout's work on the requirements. The counselor needs to test the Scout to ensure that he has completed all the required work but may not modify the Merit Badge requirements in the process. This standard ensures that the advancement requirements are fair and uniform for all Scouts.
Trainer: Lead a brief discussion to emphasize that counselors must not add or modify the Merit Badge requirements.

A Merit Badge Counselor must always ensure that a Scout has a "buddy" present at all instruction sessions. Working on Merit Badges is especially enjoyable when Scouts work together, and the BSA encourages this by making the buddy system a part of the Merit Badge program. Together the two meet with Merit Badge Counselors, plan projects, and keep their enthusiasm high. The Scout's buddy could be another Scout, a parent or guardian, brother or sister, relative, or friend. The Scout should bring a buddy to all his appointments with his counselor.

Merit Badge Counselor Requirements and Registration

To qualify as a Merit Badge Counselor, a volunteer must:

* Register annually with the Boy Scouts of America.
* Be at least 18 years old.
* Be of good character.
* Be proficient in the Merit Badge subject by vocation, avocation, or special training.
* Be able to work with Scout-age youth.
* Be approved by the district/council advancement committee.

To register with the Boy Scouts of America, a potential Merit Badge Counselor must complete the BSA's Adult Application form (No. 28-501Y; available in Spanish as No. 28-502S) and submit it along with the BSA Merit Badge Counselor Information form (No. 34405) to the BSA local council office. Renewal of this registration annually is necessary to continue as a Merit Badge Counselor.
Trainer: Show participants the forms, books, and other resources as they are mentioned throughout this training. It might be fruitful to take a few minutes to go over the Adult Application.

The Boy Scouts of America strongly recommends that Merit Badge Counselors take BSA Youth Protection training. This program addresses strategies for personal safety awareness for youth as well as adults. BSA Youth Protection policies include

* Two-deep leadership
* No one-on-one contact
* Respecting privacy
* Reporting problems

The BSA Youth Protection guidelines have been adopted primarily for the protection of our youth members; however, they also serve to protect our adult volunteers and leaders from false accusations of abuse. BSA Youth Protection training is available online at

The Merit Badge Process

The requirements for each Merit Badge appear in the current BSA Merit Badge pamphlet for that award and in the current edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book, available at Scout shops and council service centers.

When a Scout has decided on a Merit Badge he would like to earn, he obtains from his Scoutmaster the name and phone number of the district/council-approved Merit Badge Counselor. At this time, the Scoutmaster also can issue the Scout a signed Application for Merit Badge (blue card).

The Scout telephones the Merit Badge Counselor to make an appointment, and together they schedule a date and time for the Scout and his buddy to meet. The counselor suggests that the Scout bring the Merit Badge pamphlet, the Application for Merit Badge, and any work that he has started or accomplished, and that he prepare by reading over the requirements.

At their first meeting, the Merit Badge Counselor and the Scout decide upon a tentative schedule for completing the requirements. They should keep the Scout's other obligations (Scouting, school, worship, etc.) in mind, and set the dates, times, and locations for future meetings. The counselor will explain the requirements for the badge and help the Scout plan ways to fulfill these requirements so that he can get the most out of the experience.

Merit Badge Counselors help Scouts meet the requirements for the Merit Badge. They may expand on the information in the Merit Badge pamphlet based on their knowledge, experience, and expertise in the subject. They are encouraged to tell about their own experiences that positively reinforce the subject matter, but new requirements or additional work may not be added. The Scout is expected to meet the requirements for the Merit Badge as stated—no more and no less.

The number of counseling sessions will depend on the difficulty of the Merit Badge requirements and the Scout's preparation and ability. The Scout and counselor are expected to meet as many times as is necessary for the Scout to complete the requirements for the Merit Badge. The advancement program allows the Scout to move ahead in his own way and at his own pace. Rather than competing against others, he challenges himself to go as far as his ambition will carry him. The rate of advancement depends upon his interest, effort, and ability.

As the Scout completes each requirement, he is always tested (but with a buddy present), and as each requirement is completed, the Merit Badge Counselor marks it on the application. When all the requirements for the Merit Badge are fulfilled, the Merit Badge Counselor certifies that the Scout has completed the requirements. The Scout may return his completed Application for Merit Badge (blue card, if one is used) to his Scoutmaster.

Counseling Techniques

Trainer: Ensure the counselors are comfortable with counseling techniques by discussing any teaching experiences they have had and their comfort levels. Emphasize the positive.

The most productive environment for the Scout when he meets with his Merit Badge Counselor will be one in which he feels welcome and relaxed. Start the conversation by finding out what the Scout already knows about the subject, then stimulate his interest by showing him something related to it. (Be careful not to overwhelm the Scout—remember, he's probably a beginner.) Establish an atmosphere that encourages the Scout to ask questions and to ask for help when he needs it.

Spend some time helping the Scout learn the requirements, making sure he knows he should do exactly what the requirements call for, whether "show" or "demonstrate," "make," "list," "discuss," or "collect, identify, and label." Take a genuine interest in his projects, and encourage him to complete them.

Remember that the requirements must be completed exactly as presented—do not expand any requirement. However, the Scout may undertake more activities on his own initiative. The Merit Badge Counselor can encourage this without pushing him off course.

Encourage the Scout to practice for his review session and to reflect on his accomplishments. The review process might be approached by the Scout with some apprehension. He is familiar with final exams in school and may see this meeting with the counselor as another such experience. The counselor can help by talking to him rather than grilling or examining him—there's a big difference, yet it still will be evident what he knows. Expressing honest enthusiasm for the things he has done will give the Scout confidence.

During testing, the Merit Badge Counselor may find that the Scout needs help learning a particular area. The counselor teaches the needed skill, and then retests to ensure the area has been learned.

Fast Facts for the Merit Badge Counselor

* A Merit Badge Counselor can counsel any Scout, including his own son—although this is discouraged in order to offer a Scout the chance to meet a diverse group of outstanding adults.
* A counselor may be certified in unlimited Merit Badge subjects, but he or she must be approved for each one.
* There is no limit on the number of Merit Badges that a counselor may counsel with one Scout. However, the Scout will benefit the most from working with a variety of outstanding adults.
* A Merit Badge Counselor may limit his or her services to one unit but still must be approved by the council advancement committee.
* Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters are not automatically approved as Merit Badge Counselors.
* Group instruction is acceptable, but each Scout must be tested and passed individually.
* There is no time limit for completion of Merit Badges, but all work on Merit Badges must be completed before the Scout's 18th birthday.

Summer Camp Merit Badge Counselors

The same qualifications and rules for apply to counselors for council summer camp Merit Badge programs. All counselors must be 18 years or older, but qualified camp staff members under age 18 may assist the Merit Badge Counselor with instruction. (These assistants are not qualified to sign off on a Scout's blue card nor may they certify the Scout's completion of a Merit Badge.) As always, each counselor must maintain the exact standards as outlined in the Merit Badge requirements—nothing deleted, nothing added.

Partial completion of Merit Badges at summer camp should be credited to a Scout on the Application for Merit Badge (blue card) and given to his Scoutmaster at the end of the week.


Trainer: Distribute the quiz answer sheet and go over the participants' answers, pausing to discuss where appropriate. Distribute the Resources for Merit Badge Counselors handout.

Resources for Merit Badge Counselors

Adult Application, No. 28-501
This adult registration form consists of a cover sheet, an instruction and information sheet, and a four-part registration form. It is used for all BSA volunteers, including Merit Badge Counselors. Completion of the form is required of all Merit Badge Counselors regardless of whether they are already a registered Scouter, and for each position the volunteer would like to serve.

Advancement Committee Guide Policies and Procedures, No. 33088

This is the handbook for Scouters responsible for advancement at the council, district, and unit levels. It contains the current BSA advancement policies, procedures, rules, and regulations as well as other information. This handbook is available at the William Lions Holmes Center for Scouting's Scout Shop or any other BSA Scout Shop near you. See the "Scout Shop" link at the bottom of this page.

Application for Merit Badge (commonly known as the "Blue Card"), No. 34124

This three-panel, blue wallet-sized card (1) shows that the Scout has permission to start working on a particular Merit Badge; (2) records his progress; and (3), when completed, provides a separate record for the Scout, the counselor, and the unit.

Boy Scout Handbook, No. 33105
This is the critical document for a Scout, providing the basic information for all facets of Scouting, including a chapter on the Merit Badge program.

Boy Scout Requirements, No. 33215
Updated yearly, this book contains the complete, official requirements for all BSA Merit Badges, ranks, and special awards. Requirements in this publication may be more current than the Merit Badge pamphlet; therefore, the Boy Scout Requirements takes precedence. The complete book will be available online in 2007.

A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 34532

This folder gives potential Merit Badge Counselors an introduction to the advancement program and the Merit Badge Counselor's role. It also lists all the current Merit Badge subjects.

Merit Badge Counselor Information form - a.k.a. Merit Badge Counselor Application, No. 34405

When attached to the Adult Application, this document specifies the Merit Badge subjects a counselor wants to coach and secures the counselor's agreement to follow the Merit Badge requirements and BSA policies. This form is a revised National form that is a writable (fillable) pdf form, which can also be saved.

Merit Badge Pamphlet Series
The Merit Badge pamphlets are written for Scout-age boys. The information presented in the pamphlet will help the counselor understand what the Scout may be studying and the level of learning expected by the Boy Scouts of America. The pamphlets may also contain suggestions for projects or demonstrations required to earn the Merit Badge. At times, the requirements presented in the Merit Badge pamphlet may not match those in the current edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book. The Boy Scout Requirements criteria take precedence.
Once a Scout has started working on a Merit Badge, he may stay with the requirements in effect when he started. He is not required to meet newly introduced changes unless the national office places a specific time line on the implementation of new requirements.


Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009

As the Scoutmaster's primary guide, the Scoutmaster Handbook contains a section on the Merit Badge program that includes tips on recruiting counselors and other advancement resources.

Many of the same questions frequently arise from Merit Badge counselors, especially those who are new to the program. Here are the answers to some of those FAQs.

Fact: Unit leaders are not automatically approved to serve as Merit Badge counselors.

Question: Must individuals who are serving as a Merit Badge counselor register as a Merit Badge counselor with the Boy Scouts of America?
Answer: Yes, an Adult Application must be completed for each position in which the individual wants to serve. The application allows only one position per form. For instance, an individual who wants to serve only as a Merit Badge counselor will need to complete only one application. However, a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster who wants to serve as a Merit Badge counselor must complete two applications—one for the Scoutmaster position and one for the counselor position.

Question: Once the adult leader application has been submitted, how long does the approval process take?
Answer: The process usually takes from four to six weeks.

Question: What is the minimum age requirement for Merit Badge counselors?
Answer: An individual must be at least 18 years of age to serve as a Merit Badge counselor.

Question: Once a volunteer is registered and approved as a Merit Badge counselor, is that registration for life?
Answer: Approvals for Merit Badge counselors and all other adult volunteer positions are valid for one year only and must be renewed annually.

Question: Can a Merit Badge counselor who works only with a single unit obtain only unit committee approval?
Answer: With no exceptions, all Merit Badge counselors must be approved by the local council's advancement committee.

Question: How many Merit Badges can a Merit Badge counselor support?
Answer: Merit badge counselors may be approved for as many badges as they are qualified. However, the local council's approving body may impose a limitation based upon the needs of the local council and individual districts.

Question: Can Merit Badge counselors coach their own sons or close relatives (for instance, a nephew)?
Answer: Yes, but only if the young man is part of a group of Scouts who are all working on the same Merit Badge. Approved counselors may coach any Boy Scout who contacts them through the proper procedures.

Keep in mind that the best experience for a Scout is exposure to a variety of Merit Badge counselors for diversity in adult contacts.

Question: Does that mean group instruction is allowed?
Answer: A Merit Badge counselor may make a presentation to a group of Scouts on a Merit Badge subject. However, unless the Merit Badge requirements specifically allow for a group project, each Scout still must complete the requirements individually, and the Scout must meet with a Merit Badge counselor (and his buddy) to complete the requirements.

Question: How many Merit Badges can a Scout earn by working with any single Merit Badge counselor?
Answer: A Scout may earn as many Merit Badges from a counselor as the counselor is qualified and approved to counsel. Again, the spirit of the program is to expose the Scout to a wide circle of adults to help broaden his perspective.

Question: How much time does a Scout have to complete all the requirements for a Merit Badge?
Answer: There is no time limit as long as the Scout completes all the necessary requirements by the time he reaches age 18.

Question: Can a Merit Badge counselor require a Scout to work beyond the specific requirements of the Merit Badge in order to challenge the Scout and allow him to discover more about the subject?
Answer: In fairness to all Scouts, additions, deletions, or other modifications to the requirements are not permitted. The requirements are to be completed exactly as written. However, a Merit Badge counselor may share additional information and resources that the Scout could use on his own to learn more and challenge himself.

Fact: The current edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book, #33215, is the official guide for rank advancement and Merit Badge requirements and it is published each year and available in January.

Question: What happens when the weather, locale, or some other circumstance makes meeting all of the conditions of the Merit Badge requirements impractical? Can substitute requirements be created for those stated?
Answer: No additions, deletions, or alterations are permitted. The requirements are to be completed exactly as written.

Question: If the requirements for a Merit Badge on the required list for the Eagle Scout rank vary among the Boy Scout Handbook, the Merit Badge pamphlet, and the Boy Scout Requirements book (current edition), which resource takes precedence?
Answer: The current edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book, #33215, lists the official set of requirements for rank advancement and for each individual Merit Badge.

Question: What is the buddy system, and why is it necessary?
Answer: The buddy system is a safety routine that calls for a Scout to be paired with a buddy whenever he participates in Scouting activities such as aquatics, cycling, or hiking, and when he meets with his Merit Badge counselor. It is a way for Scouts to look after one another, stay safe, and have more fun. During meetings with adult leaders, a Scout's buddy can be another Scout or friend, or a relative.
Common sense dictates that two adult counselors alone with only one Scout should be avoided.

Question: What BSA Youth Protection guidelines and leadership practices should a Merit Badge counselor be aware of whenever meeting with a Scout?
Answer: Be sure to follow the buddy system. Whenever a Merit Badge counselor meets with a Scout, there must always be a third person present. This third person may be any other adult familiar to the Scout such as his parent or guardian, or the Scout's "buddy," such as a friend, sibling, or other relative.

All adult volunteers are expected to complete BSA Youth Protection training within 90 days of assuming a leadership position. This training can be done through the BSA's Online Learning Center at BSA Youth Protection training helps preserve a safe environment for young people and adult leaders so that they can all enjoy the Scouting program.