Guidelines for Advancement
FAQs on Rank Advancement and Merit Badges (Updated 2/18/2018)
What pace should I be making ranks?
If your ultimate goal is to become an Eagle Scout, then it’s important to maintain the pace and momentum needed to reach that rank before aging out at 18. Scouts typically make Life rank at 14, but then procrastinate and scramble to make the final requirements for Eagle by age 18, often failing to do so. Ideally, you should make Eagle before or by junior year of high school—in time for you to use on your college applications (where an Eagle rank can be a big advantage) and allowing you to concentrate on other things your senior year.
The attached pdf provides a useful, detailed timeline of the milestones you should achieve to make Eagle. It assumes that you started in 5th grade, making Tenderfoot at your first summer camp, and getting promoted one rank every year thereafter. If you started later than that, then you obviously need to adopt a more aggressive schedule.
Which merit badges should I earn and in what order?
There are more than 130 merit badges, so there’s no shortage of badges that might meet your interests. To reach Eagle rank, you must earn 21 merit badges. At least 13 of those must come from the table below of 17 Eagle-related badges; the remaining 8 “electives” can be met with any of the badges.
If you’re planning to earn the badges at either summer camp (Camp Horseshoe) or Merit Badge College, be aware that in many cases there are extensive prerequisites that must be met in advance. Both Chester County Council (CCCBSA) and Cradle of Liberty Council (COLBSA) hold Merit Badge Colleges in the winter/spring months to help scouts earn badges, but they fill up quickly so register early. If you can’t complete the merit badges at the college or at camp, make sure the counselor fills in the requirements that you did meet on the merit badge blue card.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Michele Harvey, Lauren Feldman, Scott Shreve, Vince Piotti, and Christine Voigt for their tips on when and where to earn Eagle badges.
What about the remaining eight “electives”?
We recommend you pursue the badges that interest you. It’s a great way to explore potential career choices. Steven Spielberg started on his amazing career partly because of his Photography merit badge. (There was no Cinematography or Moviemaking merit badge back then.) Even if a badge does not lead to a career, it may become a lifelong hobby or passion.
That said, there are some badges that are “low-hanging fruit” because they might align well with existing hobbies, extracurricular activities, or schoolwork that you’re already doing, so you might want to earn those first. Among them possibly: Collections, Dog Care, Music, Pets, Reading, Scholarship, Snow Sports.
The two websites below provide listings of merit badges, their requirements, and useful worksheets:
As with the Eagle badges, you have multiple avenues to earn badges: on your own with the guidance of a merit badge counselor; at summer camp; at Merit Badge College; and some non-BSA organizations will on occasion offer classes that satisfy requirements (e.g., Wayne Art Center with pottery and photography).
I’m ready. What do I do next?
You (not your parent) should first talk with the Scoutmaster to discuss requirements and whether you’re ready to embark on that particular merit badge. If he deems you’re ready, he’ll give you a signed blue card with contact information for a merit badge counselor. (The contact info would not apply if you’re earning the badge at camp or Merit Badge College.) You would then contact the merit badge counselor to get started.
Hyun Kul “Sean” Kim
Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 181
Troop 181 Recommended Timeline for Advancement