Merit Badges and the Merit Badge process

first aid coverMerit Badges are the second main area of the Boy Scout advancement program, behind ranks. However, unlike ranks, boys can pick and choose which merit badges to focus on. There are some merit badges (known as “Eagle required merit badges”) that must be earned before making the rank of Eagle. More than anything, though, Merit Badges are FUN! They are designed to allow scouts to be exposed to a wide variety of subjects, and learn about things they might not have otherwise had the chance to. There are currently 136 of them!

The process for selecting and earning Merit Badges is as follows:

  1. The scout identifies a Merit Badge that he wants to work on.  It is recommended that boys socialize the merit badges they want to earn with the other boys in the Troop or their Patrol to let them know what they’re working on, and hopefully get one or more “buddies”, but this is not required.
  2. The scout picks a “buddy” or “buddies.” This can be (ideally), another scout, but could also be a parent, a brother or sister, or a friend. Boys *do not* meet with Merit Badge Counselors (MBC) by themselves – there is always another person present.
  3. The scout discusses his intention to work on a Merit Badge with the Scoutmaster, and gets a “Merit Badge Application” form (blue card) signed by him or her. The Scoutmaster will help locate a MBC. In some cases, the Scoutmaster might encourage the scout to take some “related” Merit Badges (Swimming and Life Saving, for example) in order.
  4. The scout gets a copy of the Merit Badge pamphlet. Some are available from the Troop Librarian, but others will need to be purchased at a Scout Store.
  5. The scout locates a Merit Badge Counselor and makes a date to talk to him/her.
  6. The scout completes the requirements in the Merit Badge book.
  7. The Merit Badge Counselor reviews and approves the completed requirements, recording this activity on the blue card.
  8. After all requirements are completed, the Merit Badge Counselor signs the blue card and gives it to the scout.
  9. The Scout brings the blue card to the Scoutmaster, who reviews and signs completion.
  10. The Scoutmaster gives the blue card to the Troop Advancement Chairman, who purchases the Merit Badge, and logs the completion of the Merit Badge in to the troop’s records.
  11. The Scout retains his copy of the completed blue card in his records. THIS IS IMPORTANT. The completed blue card, not the merit badge, is the document that will prove that it has been earned.
  12. The Merit Badge is presented at the next Court of Honor.

Eagle Required Merit Badges

Requirement #3 for the Eagle Scout rank states: “Earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than you already have), including the following:”

Merit Badge FAQ’s

  • Do I have to be a certain rank before I start working on Merit Badges?
  • No. You can begin earning Merit Badges as soon as you join Scouts! However, note that some of these Merit Badges are pretty advanced, but if you want to pursue it, it’s up to you.
  • Can I work on a Merit Badge before I have a signed Blue Card?
  • No. You must have a signed Blue Card BEFORE you start earning a merit badge. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do your research, or learn anything about the subject, but the requirements of the Merit Badge must be completed after getting the Blue Card signed.
  • Can my Scoutmaster decline my request to earn a certain Merit Badge?
  • No. Pursuing a certain Merit Badge is up to you. In your discussions with your Scoutmaster on the subject, he might make some recommendations, but he cannot deny you opportunities to earn Merit Badges. Feel free to earn all 136 if you want! There are some Merit Badges (like Life Saving) that should be earned after other Merit Badges (like Swimming), but for the most part, Merit Badges can be pursued in any order, and at any time.
  • Can Merit Badge sessions be held during the Troop Meeting?
  • In general, no. There are certain merit badges (First Aid and Emergency Preparedness) that are very important for scouts to know, and so they might be incorporated into Troop Meeting activities, but these are exceptions. For most Merit Badges, the Merit Badge Counselor sessions will be outside of the Troop Meetings – before or after the Troop Meetings is absolutely fine if that’s what is arranged, just not during meetings.
  • Can I meet with the Merit Badge Counselor alone?
  • No – absolutely not! Ideally, you’d be working with a “buddy”, or another scout from the Troop who is taking the same Merit Badge. However, if that’s not feasible, you would need for someone else to be present while you meet with the Merit Badge Counselor – either a parent, or a sibling.
  • Can I work on more than one Merit Badge at once?
  • Sure! In fact, it probably makes sense for some Merit Badges that have similar requirements.
  • Is there a time limit in which I must complete the Merit Badge after starting it?
  • No. Merit Badges must be completed by the time you’re 18, but you can take as long as you want to complete it.
  • Can I choose my own Merit Badge Counselor?
  • Yes, but they must be approved Merit Badge Counselors by the Council. Your Scoutmaster will give you some names to choose from, and help you make selections. And if there aren’t any Merit Badge Counselors for a Merit Badge you want to take, he’ll help you find someone. As long as they’re approved by the Council, Merit Badge Counselors can be any adult. Note, though: Troop 106 does limit the number of Merit Badges you can get from a single Merit Badge Counselor to 5; this is to allow for scouts to get exposed to different adults, which is really one of the great benefits of the Merit Badge program!
  • Can a parent or a Scoutmaster be a Merit Badge Counselor?
  • Yes, but, as above, they must be approved Merit Badge Counselors by the Council. We try to avoid someone being a Merit Badge Counselor specifically for their son, or even just the Troop.
  • How are ‘partial’ completions completed?
  • Partials are fine. If, for some reason, the original Merit Badge Counselor can’t, or won’t, work with a scout on getting requirements completed, any other Merit Badge Counselor for that particular badge can sign off. Note that two-deep leadership must always be maintained.
  • Whose responsibility is it to keep the completed Merit Badge blue cards safe?
  • YOURS. It is your responsibility to keep these records. If they are lost, you might not be able to advance in rank or obtain Eagle. Keep them safe!
  • Will I be reimbursed for Merit Badge guide book purchases?
  • If the Troop doesn’t have any copies of the guides in inventory, you must buy your own. You won’t be reimbursed for it. The Troop will also not pay you for “used” copies, but it would be nice if you could donate it after you’re done, so other scouts can use it.
  • When are Merit Badges required?
  • After First Class, although some scouts choose to work on Merit Badges in preparation for these ranks. For Star, you need to earn SIX Merit Badges, including FOUR from the Eagle-required list. For Life, you need FIVE Merit Badges, including THREE from the Eagle-required list. And for Eagle, you need TEN more Merit Badges, and must complete ALL of the Eagle-required Merit Badges.