PLEASE NOTE: The Guide to Advancement has been updated for 2017.
The online version of this resource is being updated and will be available soon. In the meantime, refer to the PDF for the latest and most accurate information.
Download the Guide to Advancement 2017 here.
184.108.40.206 Advancement in Camp Settings
220.127.116.11 Procedures Established by Council Advancement Committee
Procedures for advancement in camp are established by
the council advancement committee in compliance with
national procedures, and under the direction of the
council executive board. The camp director and program
director, and the committee responsible for camp program,
should be included in the process. Their expertise will
be important in evaluating practicality, and their buy-in
can improve cooperation from the camp staff.
Once procedures are in place, advancement committee
representatives should periodically visit each resident
camp to assist in efforts to achieve compliance. The visits
can also surface new ideas on improving implementation
and building a worthwhile partnership. The desired result
of the partnership is a quality merit badge program
operated according to the policies, procedures, and best
practices outline in section 7, “The Merit Badge
Program,” and especially in topic 18.104.22.168, “Group Instruction.” Camps should not have a reputation of “Just
show up and get the badge.”
22.214.171.124 Procedural Examples
Below are examples of procedures a council advancement
committee might consider for camp settings.
- How to handle staff training on the particulars of
advancement in each program—Cub Scouting, Boy
Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Sea
Scouts—as appropriate. This training could be
conducted or supervised by members of the council
- Which merit badges may be offered at camp. Note
that summer camp is not the best place for some
merit badges, such as the citizenship merit badges,
which can be earned at home under the direction of
merit badge counselors who may be more qualified
than those available at camp.
- Recommendations on reasonable instructor-to-Scout
ratios for classes or activities related to advancement.
- A process by which the council advancement
committee will approve camp merit badge
counselors. Note that camp leaders should recognize
that it may be unlikely for members of the camp staff
to have the expertise or maturity to instruct a wide
range of merit badge subjects.
- How to handle the training of merit badge
counselors and camp staff to help ensure Scouts
meet requirements as written—no more, no less.
- How to develop lesson plans and guidelines for the
instruction of merit badges and other advancement
opportunities that make the best use of the time
available and assure campers get credit only for
requirements they actually and personally fulfill.
- A process for accepting work completed before
camp begins, and for issuing partials for merit
badges that take more time to complete than is
available at camp.
- Communication plans to build awareness of camp
practices, such as those related to scheduling,
prerequisites, Scoutmaster approvals, paperwork, etc.
- Procedures for approving completion of requirements
for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks. It
is appropriate for camps to offer “Trail to First Class”
programs, and camp staff members are permitted to
sign off related requirements; however, they should
offer unit leaders the opportunity to do so.
- Record-keeping practices that facilitate accurate
reporting to unit leadership of completed requirements
and partial merit badges and provide documentation
if units need it later.
- Collecting and making use of feedback on camp
advancement program quality.
While Cub Scout outdoor programs such as
day camp and resident camp should support
advancement, this should not be the focus of the
camp activities. Instead, advancement should occur
naturally as an end product of the experience. The
keys to facilitating this approach lie in implementing
the Cub Scouting performance standard of “Do Your
Best” and ensuring programs are age appropriate.
It is important to understand that skill mastery is not
the objective in Cub Scouting, and that boys—even
in the same age group and grade—can have very
different developmental time tables.
126.96.36.199 Advancement Committee Approves Merit Badge Counselors
Resident camp standards require a letter from the
council advancement committee approving merit badge
counselors. There are no camp-related exemptions from
the qualifications described under “Qualifications of
Counselors,” 188.8.131.52. Councils are not permitted to
change the rules about who qualifies. Staff members
under 18 are not to serve as, or be treated as, merit
badge counselors; however, those with subject-matter
knowledge may assist qualified and approved
counselors with instruction. Classes and activities may
take place in group settings, but this must be done in
accordance with the procedures described in “Group
Instruction,” 184.108.40.206, assuring that only Scouts who
actually and personally fulfill requirements receive credit
No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements.
220.127.116.11 Statement on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement in Camp Programs
Though stated earlier in this publication, it bears repeating
here: No council, committee, district, unit, or individual
has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement
requirements. There are no camp-related exemptions
except those described in “Advancement for Members
With Special Needs,” 10.0.0.0.
Camp counselors and those assisting them, regardless the
circumstances, are not permitted to modify requirements. If
requirements as written cannot be competed at camp,
they must be done elsewhere, before or after the camp
experience. The Application for Merit Badge “blue card”
(see “About the Application for Merit Badge (“Blue Card”), 18.104.22.168) has space to record and initial what is
finished, and age 18 is the only limit to finishing partials.
If unit leadership or others dissatisfied with the quality of
advancement instruction at camp become concerned
Scouts are being approved for merit badges they have
not earned, a report should be filed with the council
advancement committee. The form found in the appendix
(see “Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns,”22.214.171.124) may be used for this purpose. See also “Once It Is Earned, It’s Earned,” 126.96.36.199, and “Limited Recourse for Unearned Merit Badges,” 188.8.131.52.
184.108.40.206 Advancement Committee as a Partner in Camp-Related Advancement
Council advancement committees that partner with camp
staffs and approach solutions jointly are more likely to
see strong programs. Implementing a merit badge program
at camp is not a simple task. It is not something to consider
from afar and then make rules about. Committees with
members who make the trip and lend a hand are more
likely to see successful results. An example might be
helping the staff meet the camp standards requiring
training in several areas around advancement.
220.127.116.11 Extended Absence From Scouting
Members who leave the Boy Scouting or Varsity Scouting
program are welcome to return if they are eligible and in
good standing. They take up where they left off, assuming
the last verifiable rank. It may be necessary for them to
produce advancement documentation, or to have records
updated or transferred from another council. The time
away shall not be held against them, and they shall not
be made to redo requirements.
Because time spent in positions of responsibility
(“Positions of Responsibility,” 18.104.22.168) or active
participation (“Active Participation,” 22.214.171.124) need not
be continuous, any periods of activity before leaving
count toward the next rank. The new unit leader,
however, may check with past unit leaders, parents,
or others to confirm time spent meets the
126.96.36.199 Lone Scouting
Boys who do not have access to traditional Scouting units
can become Lone Cub Scouts and Lone Boy Scouts. In the
following or similar circumstances, they may find this an
- Home-schooled where parents do not want them in a
- U.S. citizens living abroad
- Exchange students away from the United States
- Disability or communicable illness that prevents
- Rural communities far from a unit
- Conflicts with a job, night school, or boarding school
- Families who frequently travel or live on a boat, etc.
- Living arrangements with parents in
- Environments where getting to meetings may put the
Scout in danger
Lone Scouts is limited to Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting. Varsity Scouting,Venturing, and Sea Scouts do not offer equivalent experiences.
Each Lone Cub Scout or Lone Boy Scout must work with
a Lone Scout counselor—preferably his parent, but the
counselor might also be a religious leader, teacher,
neighbor, or Scouting volunteer. Regardless, even if a
parent, he or she must complete Youth Protection training,
be at least 21 years of age, registered with the Boy
Scouts of America, and meet its adult membership
requirements. More details can be found in the Lone
Scout Friend and Counselor Guidebook, No. 511-420,
an essential tool in carrying out this program. The
guidebook can be found at
To register as a Lone Cub Scout or Lone Boy Scout,
application can be made through the council service
center. Lone Scout counselors must register using the
standard adult application. Those living abroad may
inquire with the Boy Scouts of America’s Member Care
Contact Center at 972-580-2489 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn which local council serves their
location. Lone Scouting is not an alternative for those
who just don’t like the local units or cannot get along
It is permissible and even beneficial for Lone Scouts to meet
from time to time with others in the area, or visit a unit if
possible. These meetings can provide additional instruction
and counseling to promote further advancement, and also
a more public forum for recognizing achievement.
188.8.131.52 Lone Scout Advancement Procedures
Because Lone Scouts are not registered with units, we can
exercise some responsible flexibility with advancement.
This is not to say anything goes: Lone Scouting is not a
place to register a boy simply to facilitate parental
approval of advancement. Requirements for ranks, merit
badges, or any other advancement-related awards that
can be met by one Scout working with his counselor must
be fulfilled as written. In some instances, family members,
neighbors, or friends can be used in place of a “den” or
“troop” to increase the number of requirements that can
be met as stated.
Some wording issues are simple and do not require
council approval. For example, a Lone Scout may fulfill
a position of responsibility by serving in his school, place
of worship, in a club, etc. Where it is not possible to
meet requirements as written, a Lone Scout counselor may
suggest equal or very similar alternative requirements.
These must have council advancement committee approval.
Dissimilar requirements should be allowed only in
extreme circumstances, or when they cannot be met
without extreme hazard or hardship. See the Lone Scout
Friend and Counselor Guidebook for details.
184.108.40.206 Lone Scouts and Merit Badges
A Lone Scout earns merit badges by working with adult
counselors who meet the qualifications as stated under
“Qualifications of Counselors,” 220.127.116.11. They can be
recruited from among teachers, hobbyists, business
leaders, members of various clubs, etc. Before they
serve, the council or district advancement committee,
according to local practices, must approve them. A list
of preapproved counselors can be obtained by calling
the local council service center. For more information,
see “The Merit Badge Program,” 18.104.22.168. In instances
where the Lone Scout is unable to meet a merit badge
requirement as written, the procedure outlined in 22.214.171.124
is to be followed.
126.96.36.199 Eagle Scout Applications for Lone Scouts
When a Lone Scout has completed the Eagle Scout
requirements, he works with the district or council
advancement committee according to local practices
(see “Boards of Review,” 188.8.131.52). The Eagle Scout Rank
Application is reviewed and processed according to
topics 184.108.40.206 through 220.127.116.11. These steps include
verification at the local council, scheduling and
conducting a board of review, and submitting the
application to the National Advancement Team.
Since the Lone Scout is not affiliated with a unit, the local
council processor must send the application to the
National Advancement Team for processing. It cannot be
submitted electronically. Since there is no “unit
committee” for a Lone Scout, the unit committee chair
signature line on the Eagle Scout application is left blank.
No unit committee approval is required for the Eagle
Scout service project proposal. The Lone Scout counselor
conducts the unit leader conference and signs as the unit
leader on the Eagle Scout Rank Application and in the
18.104.22.168 Youth From Other Countries
Youth from other countries who
temporarily reside in the United States, or
have moved here, may register in a BSA
unit and participate in advancement. If
progress from a foreign Scouting
association is to be considered and
applied to BSA requirements, then the foreign Scout must
meet in person (or over electronic media) with members
of the council or district advancement committee, along
with at least one adult leader or committee member of the
receiving unit. Previous advancement work is reviewed to
determine the BSA rank—up to, but not including Eagle
Scout rank—the youth is qualified to receive. The
candidate must present evidence of membership and
advancement from the previous association. Once a rank
is determined, it is reported through the BSA’s Internet
portal for reporting advancement or on an
This procedure applies to all ranks except Eagle Scout,
which is not considered equivalent to any other association’s
rank. If it can be established that Life rank has been
achieved, then the council or district advancement
committee can determine which BSA merit badges may
be awarded based on previous effort and experiences
that meet BSA merit badge requirements as written. This
may leave a number of additional badges to earn—
required or not—to achieve Eagle.
Requirements for active participation, position of
responsibility, Scout spirit, the service project, and the
unit leader conference must be completed in a BSA unit.
This procedure also applies to members of the BSA who,
while living abroad, have earned advancement in another
22.214.171.124 Religious Principles
From time to time, issues related to advancement call
for an understanding of the position of the Boy Scouts
of America on religious principles.
The Boy Scouts of America does not define what constitutes
belief in God or practice of religion. Neither does the
BSA require membership in a religious organization or
association for membership in the movement. If a Scout
does not belong to a religious organization or association,
then his parent(s) or guardian(s) will be considered
responsible for his religious training. All that is required
is the acknowledgment of belief in God as stated in
the Declaration of Religious Principle and the Scout Oath,
and the ability to be reverent as stated in the Scout Law.
126.96.36.199 Bestowing Posthumous Awards
If, prior to death, a youth member in any BSA program
met the requirements for a rank or award, including age
and service, he or she may receive it posthumously. If a
required board of review has not been conducted,
it is held according to the methods outlined in “Boards of
Review,” 188.8.131.52. It is appropriate to invite parents or
guardians and friends to discuss the efforts made toward
For the Eagle Scout rank, the application is verified at
the council service center, but it must be sent to the
National Advancement Team for processing. A cover
letter from the Scout executive or designee must indicate
it as posthumous. This triggers changes to the
congratulatory letter returned with the pocket card and
certificate. Note that the same procedures regarding
timing of an Eagle Scout board of review apply in
posthumous cases. See “Eagle Scout Board of Review Beyond the 18th Birthday,” 184.108.40.206.
220.127.116.11 Spirit of the Eagle Award
The Boy Scouts of America has created the Spirit of the
Eagle Award as an honorary posthumous recognition
for registered youth members who have lost their lives
through illness or accident. It is offered by the National
Court of Honor as a final salute and tribute in celebration
of the recipient’s life, and publicly recognizes his or her
contributions to the mission of Scouting.
An application can be found at www.scouting.org/Awards_Central/SpiritoftheEagle. A unit committee must
complete and submit it to the local council within six
months of the member’s death. After acceptance there, it is
forwarded to the National Design and Development
Department for review and approval.
18.104.22.168 Using Technology-Based
Tools in Advancement
The use of technology has rapidly expanded into the
culture of Scouting with tools such as videoconferencing,
live streaming webinars, and mobile and Web-based
applications. These tools are useful and can save time for
administrative tasks, especially in managing records for
membership, training, and advancement. But Scout
leaders must take care when using these tools to deliver
and implement the advancement program. While there
are occasions when it might be appropriate for a youth
to demonstrate completion of requirements using
technology, the preferred method for rank advancement
and merit badge counseling is still face-to-face interaction
that supports the BSA method of adult association.
Procedures for using Web-based tools in advancement
are established by the council advancement committee in
compliance with national procedures. Below are
examples of actions that might be considered.
- Create a plan for promoting compliance with Youth
Protection guidelines related to electronic
communications within units.
- Develop a process for approving technology-based
boards of review (see “Boards of Review Through Videoconferencing,” 22.214.171.124).
- Plan how to approve and monitor merit badge
counselors in your council who offer their services
- Consider how to confirm with their home councils
that counselors operating online are registered and
approved for the merit badges they counsel.
- Produce guidelines for technology- or Web-based
merit badge instruction that places the actual testing
in a personal setting.
For today’s youth, communication via social media is
second nature. In all aspects of technology-based
advancement, both adults and youth must adhere to
BSA Youth Protection guidelines (www.scouting.org/Training/youthprotection) as well as BSA Social Media
Guidelines (www.scouting.org/Marketing/Resources/SocialMedia). The Cyber Chip program is also a critical
tool in the protection of our youth. See www.scouting.org/cyberchip.