With more than 135 merit badges available, there are many options for scouts to explore areas of particular interest to them. Who knows, working on any one of the many available merit badges might spark an interest that the scout will carry forward through adulthood as a hobby or profession. Most merit badge work is done outside of the regular Troop meetings. During the normal course of the year, only some merit badge work will be done as a Troop. A few opportunities for working on merit badges will be available through council or district functions (i.e. merit badge fairs) and BSA sanction camps. A complete list of all merit badges and their requirements can be viewed at http://www.meritbadge.org.
Merit Badge Overview
A boy scout can begin taking merit badges as soon as he joins a troop, but no merit badges are required for advancement until he receives his First Class rank. Advancement to Star, Life, and Eagle all require completion of merit badges, service, and leadership. To reach Eagle rank, a scout must complete a total of at least 21 Boy Scout merit badges listing them in his handbook, 12 of which come from the Eagle-required badge list. Non-Eagle required merit badges have a green embroidered edge while Eagle required merit badges have a silver embroidered edge.
Merit Badge Pamphlets: An official Boy Scout merit badge pamphlet has been created for the BSA by topic authorities for each merit badge. The pamphlets contain requirements, introductory information and supplemental reference text. A scout can purchase pamphlets from BSA, find them in the troop library or possibly check them out from a public library. There is also a Boy Scout Requirements Book with a merit badge list for quick reference that is available in the Troop library.
Merit badge worksheets are available online at http://www.meritbadge.org which assist the scout in organizing his notes, locating resources and documenting his work.
Merit Badge Counselors: Merit badge counselors are volunteers that have applied, been selected, trained, and approved by council or district committees. They are knowledgeable in the topic and understand the goals of scouting and the Boy Scout merit badge program. It is the merit badge counselor that certifies completion of the merit badge requirements.
Blue Cards: The infamous “blue card” is the document on which progress and completion of a merit badge is recorded and consists of three parts, these being the Troop record, applicant record and counselor record.
Merit Badge Process
- A scout decides he would like to earn a specific merit badge and completes the 3 sections of a Blue Card.
- The scout obtains approval to begin the merit badge from his Scoutmaster. Upon approval, the Scoutmaster signs the Blue Card. No work is to begin on a merit badge without the Scoutmaster signature on the Blue Card.
- The Scoutmaster identifies possible merit badge counselors.
- It is highly recommended that the scout identify another scout that will be his partner to attend meetings with the counselor to follow safe scouting guidelines.
- The Scout then contacts the counselor to begin badge work. The counselor reviews the requirements with the scouts and they decide on projects to complete and a completion schedule. The counselor provides expertise, advice, guidance as needed until the scouts have completed the requirements.
- The scout completes the merit badge requirements. During the process of completing a merit badge, the scout keeps incomplete (partial) merit badge Blue Cards in his possession. This serves as a reminder to the scout that the work in incomplete and that the scout is responsible for ensuring progress towards completion.
- Upon completion of all the requirements, the merit badge counselor certifies completion of requirements by signing the Blue Card and removing the “Counselor” section for their records. The remaining 2 sections of the Blue Card are returned to the scout.
- The scout presents the completed Blue Card to the Scoutmaster for signature. The completed and Scoutmaster signed Blue Card is then given the Advancement Chair.
- The Advancement Chair submits the required paperwork with Council and removes the “Troop” section of the Blue Card for the Troop records.
- The Advancement Chair procures the merit badge which is awarded to the scout at the next Court of Honor with the “Applicant” section of the Blue Card which is to be retained by the scout for their record keeping.