The current edition of the Guide to Advancement is the official source for administering advancement in all Boy Scouts of America programs: Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, 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Be aware that statements or interpretations offered from unofficial websites and other such sources may be out of date or incorrect.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, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, 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 email@example.com.
For recommendations or suggested corrections to this publication, or for questions that cannot be handled locally, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 should be directed to email@example.com.
While every section of this guide has received at least
minor revisions since the last edition, the following topics
merit close review.
- All references to the National Advancement Committee and the National Advancement Team have been changed to read “National Advancement Program Team.”
- Various references to a parent or parents have been changed to include a guardian or guardians.
- On page 2 the definition of “unit leader” has been clarified to specify “registered adult leader.”
Section 3. Guidelines for Advancement and Recognition Committees
- 184.108.40.206: Changed position titles to be functionally generic.
- 220.127.116.11: Includes reference to the new document “Building Effective Advancement Committees” that can be found on the Advancement Resources webpage.
- 18.104.22.168: Updated list of advancement educational presentations (removed Spanish-language presentations and added new presentation).
Section 4. The Mechanics of Advancement
- 22.214.171.124: Clarified when a Cub Scout may be allowed a little additional time to complete a badge before moving on to the next rank.
- 126.96.36.199: Change made to recognize that Cub Scouts may transition to a new den at times other than the end of a school year.
- 188.8.131.52: Change made to the number of Webelos and Arrow of Light adventures required. Added a paragraph to clarify Webelos and Arrow of Light age/grade requirements.
- 184.108.40.206: Deleted this topic because the transition process expired May 31, 2016.
- 220.127.116.11: Changed to include Scout rank.
- 18.104.22.168: Changed to include Scout rank.
- 22.214.171.124: Added clarification that a Scout must be given credit for active participation time even if a unit takes time off during the summer or any other time of the year.
- 126.96.36.199.3: Added clarification that the Scout must be given credit for time served in a position of responsibility even if a unit takes time off during the summer or any other time of the year.
- 188.8.131.52: Added clarification that a unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference may be delegated to another registered adult leader under certain circumstances.
- 184.108.40.206: Added clarification that unit leaders cannot require a Scout to provide certain documentation as a precondition to a unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference.
- 220.127.116.11: Clarified that counting service hours provided elsewhere in the community is not “double counting” and they should be counted toward advancement.
- 18.104.22.168: Topic completely rewritten to recognize that Sea Scouting is now a separate program from Venturing.
- 22.214.171.124: Added topic to identify Sea Scouts as a separate program from Venturing and to clarify Boy Scout advancement for Sea Scouts.
- 126.96.36.199.2: Clarified the steps for processing the Quartermaster Application.
Section 5. Special Considerations
- 188.8.131.52: The Spirit of the Eagle Award is reviewed, approved, and processed by the local council. The National Service Center is no longer involved.
Section 6. Electronic Advancement Reporting
- 184.108.40.206: Changed title of section from “Internet Advancement Reporting” to “Electronic Advancement Reporting”.
- 220.127.116.11: Reference made to Scoutbook.
Section 7. The Merit Badge Program
- 18.104.22.168: Added examples of approved providers for CPR instructor training.
- 22.214.171.124: Language added that Scouts should not have access to council or district merit badge counselor lists.
- 126.96.36.199: New bullet item added referring to the new Merit Badge Group Instruction Guide, No. 512-066.
- 188.8.131.52: Clarification added regarding steps to follow when requirements change.
Section 8. Boards of Review: An Overview for All Ranks
- 184.108.40.206: Added clarification that a board of review cannot be denied or postponed due to nonrequirement reasons such as uniforming or delinquent dues payments.
- 220.127.116.11: Added clarification that board members should recuse themselves if they cannot be fair and impartial.
- 18.104.22.168: Item 2, added clarification that council or district representatives on Eagle boards of review must not be affiliated with the Eagle candidate’s unit.
- 22.214.171.124: Item 5, modified to note that boards of review must be scheduled promptly to avoid delaying a Scout’s opportunity to earn Eagle Palms.
- 126.96.36.199: Item 11, updated to allow councils to use a report from the PAS/ScoutNET system to authorize purchase of Eagle Scout items.
- 188.8.131.52: Added clarification that a Scout and his parents or guardians must be informed of the right to a board of review under disputed circumstances.
- 184.108.40.206: Added the Eagle Scout candidate as someone who should be interviewed by an appeal board.
- 220.127.116.11: Item 1, added clarification about who serves on a board of review for the Discovery and Pathfinder awards.
- 18.104.22.168: Item 1– Chair, clarified what is required to be Venturing-certified.
- 22.214.171.124: Item 1–Adult representation, added language about who shall not serve on a Summit Award board of review.
Section 9. The Eagle Scout Rank
- 126.96.36.199: Item 1– Dates, clarified necessity to ensure all date fields are accurate to avoid delays in processing.
- 188.8.131.52: Item 3–References, added that there are no restrictions on who the Scout may list as his two “other references” on his rank application.
- 184.108.40.206: Item 4–Merit badges, added that Scouts must not be required to attach blue cards to their rank application unless an error is discovered during council verification.
- 220.127.116.11: Item 6–Attachments, clarified that additional attachments beyond those already listed should not be required.
- 18.104.22.168: New paragraph added at the end explaining that once a board of review has approved a Scout for rank advancement, even if a requirement error is discovered later, the rank advancement date stands as is.
- 22.214.171.124: Added that signatures on a Scout’s service project report need not be dated before his 18th birthday.
- 126.96.36.199: Items 1 and 5, clarified that it is the council’s responsibility to prepare the Request for Extension of Time to Earn Eagle Scout Rank form, not the Scout’s.
- 188.8.131.52: Item 5, mandated that the extension request be forwarded to the National Service Center.
Section 10. Advancement for Members With Special Needs
- 10.1.0.0: Clarified when a request for registration beyond the age of eligibility may be submitted and considered.
Section 11. Appendix
- 184.108.40.206: Various changes to the form to improve functionality and to clarify who is responsible for preparing it.
- 220.127.116.11: Added checkboxes that allow the form to be used for the Venturing Summit Award or the Quartermaster rank. Also various changes to improve functionality.
- 18.104.22.168: Various changes to the document to ensure consistency with the Guide to Advancement.
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)
- If a Cub Scout is close to finishing a rank when it is time for him to transition to a new den, can he 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.
- Does a boy 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)
- Can a boy with a disability become a Scout? How can he participate and advance? Does he 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)
- 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 Boy Scout or Varsity Scout 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)