The current edition of the Guide to Advancement is the official source for administering advancement in all Boy Scouts of America programs: Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scouts. It replaces any previous BSA advancement manuals and previous editions of the Guide to Advancement.
Producing the Guide to Advancement has involved many members of the Boy Scouts of America’s national staff and many volunteer advancement administrators and subject matter experts at all levels from across the country. The result is an improved resource intended to more efficiently meet the needs of those who would most often consult it.
Additional information and best practices appear in other official BSA resources such as Advancement News, the National Advancement Program Team’s Twitter feed, and the advancement educational presentations released by the National Advancement Program Team. See “Orientation and Education Opportunities for Advancement Administrators,” 188.8.131.52, for more information on education in advancement policies and procedures. Scouting leaders are encouraged to make full use of these resources but should confirm that updated information has not subsequently been provided. For example, most of the official educational resources released carry an expiration date. As these dates arrive, replacement versions can be downloaded from www.scouting.org/advancement. Expired presentations must not be used.
Be aware that statements or interpretations offered from unofficial websites and other such sources may be out of date or incorrect. They will not be considered in resolving advancement questions and issues. In situations not specifically covered in this guide, advancement chairs, coordinators, or other administrators should make decisions based on the aims and mission of the Boy Scouts of America as well as the Scout Oath and Scout Law, other applicable current and official BSA resources—and common sense.
Regardless the program—Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing, or Sea Scouts—where advancement takes place, it is nothing more and nothing less than one of several methods. It is a means toward accomplishing the Boy Scouts of America mission. It is not an end in itself. When as advancement administrators—both volunteer and professional—we recognize this, we can expect success. To see it otherwise is to indicate we have forgotten our purpose.
Every effort has been made to provide clear procedures and guidelines for a mission-oriented delivery of advancement. Its administration, however, largely takes place locally. Therefore, volunteer advancement administrators should always consult first with the district and council—the district advancement chair, district executive, council advancement chair, or the council’s professional staff advisor for advancement. These officials can provide many answers and a certain level of interpretation.
Note that the National Advancement Program Team addresses many questions through its Twitter feed (@AdvBSA) and through the e-newsletter, Advancement News. To subscribe to Advancement News, send your name, email, and council name to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For recommendations or suggested corrections to this publication, or for questions that cannot be handled locally, send a message to email@example.com, or mail them to Pilots and Program Development Department, S272, Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015-2079.
Suggestions for new merit badges, or suggested updates to existing ones, should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every section of this guide has received some minor revisions since the last printed edition, primarily to reflect the addition of female youth to Cub Scouting and Scouts BSA. In addition, the following topics merit close review.
Revisions have been made throughout this guide to make clear that all guidance and requirements of the rank advancement and awards programs apply equally to male and female Scouts.
All references to the Varsity program have been removed, except when past participation in a Varsity team could be relevant, such as service in a position of responsibility.
To reflect the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America, the objectives of Scouting, otherwise known as the aims, have been modified wherever they appear to include character development, citizenship training, leadership, and mental and physical fitness.
When used throughout this guide, Scouts BSA Handbook refers to both the Scouts BSA Handbook for Boys and the Scouts BSA Handbook for Girls.
Section 1. Introduction
- 184.108.40.206: Added three more frequently asked questions about special needs Scouting.
Section 3. Guidelines for Advancement and Recognition Committees
- 220.127.116.11: Removed the summaries of individual educational presentations. However, the presentations are still available at the Advancement Educational Presentations webpage. The National Advancement Program Team strongly recommends that unit leaders and volunteers review those programs.
Section 4. The Mechanics of Advancement
- 18.104.22.168: Added the Lion rank.
- 22.214.171.124: Added the Lion rank. Topics 126.96.36.199 to 188.8.131.52 have been renumbered.
- 184.108.40.206: Removed discussion of the Varsity program since it no longer exists. The topic number is reserved for the convenience of the editors.
- 220.127.116.11: Added Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook to the litany of items unit leaders may not require for a unit leader conference for the Eagle Scout rank.
- 18.104.22.168: Clarified that boards of review are to be conducted in the Scouts BSA or Venturing unit that is supervising the Scouts BSA advancement.
- 22.214.171.124: Clarified the procedure for processing Summit Award applications.
- 126.96.36.199: Clarified that boards of review are to be conducted in the Scouts BSA or Sea Scouting unit that is supervising the Scouts BSA advancement.
- 188.8.131.52: Clarified the procedure for processing Quartermaster rank applications.
Section 7. The Merit Badge Program
- 184.108.40.206: Revised to reflect current requirements in the Guide to Safe Scouting and social media guidelines.
Section 8. Boards of Review: An Overview for All Ranks
- 220.127.116.11: Added clarification about the scheduling of boards of review under disputed circumstances.
Section 11. Appendix
- 18.104.22.168: Removed the listing of Advancement and Recognition Literature and Resources from the guide.
Listed below are questions often asked of the National Advancement Program Team. Each question is followed by the topic number of the answer.
- How should advancement issues be handled if they are not covered in Guide to Advancement? (22.214.171.124)
- How should a district or council advancement committee be organized? (126.96.36.199)
- Where can we find training for advancement volunteers? (188.8.131.52)
- What is the responsibility of the council advancement committee in camp settings and camp operations? (184.108.40.206–220.127.116.11)
- May assistant den leaders or parents sign off on requirements in boys’ handbooks? (18.104.22.168)
- May a Cub Scout who is close to finishing a rank when it is time to transition to a new den be allowed extra time to finish the requirements? (22.214.171.124)
- What is meant by required and elective adventures, and how many of them must be earned? (126.96.36.199)
- What happened to belt loops and pins? The Academic and Sports program has been discontinued. For a new approach to belt loops and pins, see 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206.
- May a youth who joins Cub Scouting as a fifth-grader earn the Webelos badge? (220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168)
- What does “active participation” mean? (22.214.171.124)
- What are “positions of responsibility,” and how are they evaluated? (126.96.36.199)
- Must the unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference be the last step before a board of review? (188.8.131.52)
- Is it permissible to conduct Scoutmaster conferences or boards of review via videoconferencing? (184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11)
- Can one activity be used to fulfill more than one requirement? (18.104.22.168)
- What may be done when Scouts are earning large numbers of merit badges from just one counselor? (22.214.171.124)
- Does the National Council have training available for merit badge counselors? (126.96.36.199)
- Is there a time limit between starting work on a merit badge and finishing it? What if requirements change? (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206)
- What can be done if a unit leader comes across a Scout who has a blue card signed by a merit badge counselor, but it is clear the Scout did not fulfill the requirements? (220.127.116.11)
- Can a Scout be denied a board of review? (18.104.22.168)
- May Eagle candidates choose board of review members? (22.214.171.124)
- Shouldn’t an Eagle Scout candidate be in uniform for his board of review? (126.96.36.199)
- What is a board of review under disputed circumstances, and what are the grounds for convening one? (188.8.131.52)
- May the decision of a board of review under disputed circumstances be appealed? How is the decision of a board of review appealed? (184.108.40.206)
- Must a candidate be registered at the time of his board of review? (220.127.116.11)
- Must the Eagle Scout Rank Application be submitted before the Scout’s 18th birthday? (18.104.22.168)
- May an Eagle Scout board of review be delayed until all references respond? (22.214.171.124)
- What if an Eagle Scout service project is not approved prior to beginning? (126.96.36.199)
- May a council “preapprove” some Eagle Scout fundraising efforts, such as bake sales or car washes? (188.8.131.52)
- What if a completed Eagle Scout service project is denied final approval? (184.108.40.206)
- What are the grounds for an extension of time to earn the Eagle Scout rank, and what are the responsibilities of a council in applying for one? (220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168)
- What is the “ALPS” model in Venturing? (22.214.171.124)
- Are the Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder, and Summit awards considered “advancement”? (126.96.36.199)
- May a Venturer work on Boy Scout advancement? (188.8.131.52)
- Who approves a Summit Award service project proposal? (184.108.40.206)
- Do the same restrictions, risk management, and insurance issues for Eagle Scout service projects also apply to Summit Award service projects? (220.127.116.11)
- Is it possible for a Venturer to receive an extension of time to earn the Summit Award? (18.104.22.168)
- What is the procedure for submitting an application for the Venturing Summit Award? (22.214.171.124)
- How are Venturing board of review members selected? (126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52)
- How are Venturing boards of review conducted? (184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11)
- May boards of review for the Summit Award be appealed? (18.104.22.168)
- Are boards of review under disputed circumstances available to Summit Award candidates? (22.214.171.124)
- May a person with a disability become a Scout? How should participation and advancement be conducted? Does the individual need to join a “special” unit? (10.0.0.0)
- Is it possible for a person with special needs to continue to be registered as a youth member after he or she has passed the age of eligibility for a BSA program? (10.1.0.0)
- May an individual with special needs join a unit even if that person is chronologically beyond the age of eligibility? (10.1.0.0)
- What kinds of allowances are made for members with special needs? (10.2.0.0–10.2.2.0 and 10.2.3.0–10.2.3.3)
- What if a youth in Scouts BSA with special needs is not able to meet advancement requirements as they are written? (10.2.2.0,10.2.2.1, and 10.2.2.3)
- What if a Venturer with special needs is unable to meet award requirements as written? (10.2.3.2 and 10.2.2.2)
- What if a Sea Scout with special needs is unable to meet advancement requirements as written? (10.2.3.3 and 10.2.2.2)