A Boy Scout's Guide to Patches: Merit Badges and Advancement

A Boy Scout's Guide to Patches, Merit Badges, and Advancement

To move up through the ranks in the Boy Scouts of America, scouts need to earn merit badges based on different topics and activities. The point of these merit badges is to let you learn about a lot of different things, which can also help you figure out what you'd like to do for a job when you're an adult. You'll also learn lots of useful skills that you'll need for your whole life. To earn merit badges, you'll need to find out what's required for each one, go through the steps that are needed, and show a troop leader what you've learned.

Cub Scouts vs. Boy Scouts

Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are similar programs that are part of the same organization. The biggest difference between them is that Cub Scouts are elementary-aged kids, while Boy Scouts are older. Because they focus on different age levels, there's also a difference in how meetings and activities are run: Cub Scout events are usually organized and led by adult troop leaders, while Boy Scouts take more responsibility for planning and running events themselves. Both types of scouts will do things like earning badges and patches, going camping, and doing community service projects.


All Boy Scouts start at the lowest rank, no matter their age. To move up in rank as a Boy Scout, you need to complete the requirements for advancement. These requirements can vary by level, but they generally include earning merit badges, doing community service, and being faithful to the ideals of the Boy Scouts. You'll also need to participate in a conference where you talk about what you've done and set goals for the future. You can earn ranks at your own pace; whenever you finish everything you need to do for the next level, you can move up.

Scout Ranks

Some Boy Scout ranks can be worked on at the same time as others, but you always have to earn ranks in order, one at a time.

Scout is the first rank. You earn this rank by learning the basics of scouting, like the Boy Scout Law, Oath, motto, and slogan, and some basic skills, like knot-tying. The Scout patch has a gold fleur-de-lis on a tan background.

Tenderfoot is the next earned rank. To become a Tenderfoot, you'll need to go camping and show that you know a variety of camping skills, like knot-tying, cooking, and first aid. You'll also need to work on your physical fitness, learn about properly flying the American flag, and do community service.

The next rank is Second Class, which requires you to participate in outdoor activities, including overnight camping trips. You'll also need to know about using a map and compass, identifying wild animals, and responding to medical emergencies, and you'll have to pass a swimming test. Members hoping to achieve the rank of Second Class must also complete a service project.

First Class is the next possible rank. Earning the First Class rank requires you to know more advanced camping skills, learn about menu-planning within budget and nutritional guidelines, complete an orienteering course to show that you can find your way using a compass and map, take a swimming test, learn about boating, meet with a local official or teacher to talk about the rights of American citizens, study an environmental issue and work to reduce pollution, and do community service.

The next rank is Star, which requires you to earn six merit badges, four of which need to be on the list of required badges for Eagle scouts. You'll also need to be active in your troop and do community service.

Life is the second-highest rank. Once you're a Star scout and have shown leadership in your troop for at least six months, you can become a Life scout, but first, you also have to earn five more merit badges, three of which have to be from the list for Eagle scouts, and do community service. You'll also need to mentor a younger scout and meet with a board of review.

Eagle Scout Requirements

The highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America is Eagle. In order to receive this rank, scouts must earn a minimum of 21 merit badges, including 13 specific badges required for all Eagle scouts. You also need to show leadership in your troop, and you'll need to plan and lead a community service project. Once you do all of these things, participate in a conference, and get approval from a board of review, you'll become an Eagle scout.

Merit Badge Activities and Resources

Astronomy Merit Badge

Cooking Merit Badge

Engineering Merit Badge

Genealogy Merit Badge

Insect Study Merit Badge

Music Merit Badge

Photography Merit Badge

Safety Merit Badge

Traffic Safety Merit Badge

Weather Merit Badge