The Ultimate Guide to Boy Scouts of America Patches and What They Mean

When you see a member of Scouts BSA, more commonly known as the Boy Scouts, one of the first things you may notice are the many patches that adorn their Scout uniform. What do all of the different patches mean, and how do they get them? Our ultimate guide to Boy Scouts of America patches will break down the meaning behind each of the patches that can be found on the navy blue Cub Scout uniform or the khaki BSA uniform as well as the official uniform patch placement for each. The Boy Scout patches and Cub Scout patches are used to identify things like scout ranks, troop numbers, awards earned, and their position within the troop. And don’t think we forgot about one of the best parts of the BSA Scout uniform: the merit badge sash! This is where a Scout permanently displays all of the merit badges they have earned throughout their years of scouting. Check out our illustrated guide to the many Boy Scout badges and patches that decorate the Scout uniform, and don’t forget to “do a good turn daily”!

Click the image to expand

Embed code:

When Was Boy Scouts of America Founded?

Boy Scouts of America was founded more than a century ago, in 1910. It was based on a similar Boy Scout movement that began in England a couple of years prior. The BSA program grew rapidly to become the largest youth organization in the United States. It eventually split into two separate age groups, with Cub Scouting for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade and BSA scouts for those who are older. Cub Scouts is more of a family-oriented program designed to address the needs of younger kids, while the scouting BSA program is more focused on developing the individual Scout’s skills and leadership.

Why Did They Change the Name of Boy Scouts?

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) changed the name of their flagship program from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA on Feb. 1, 2019, when they decided to also allow girls to join. Members of the Boy Scouts of America are now refereed to as just Scouts instead of Boy Scouts. Since they made this policy change, more than 31,000 girls have joined the Scouts BSA program.

What Is a Merit Badge?

A merit badge is a patch that Scouts are awarded after proving their knowledge and skills in a specific area of study. The merit badge program allows Scouts to explore different areas of interest to determine if they would want to pursue them in the future as a hobby or a profession. The merit badge list covers a wide variety of topics that Scouts can explore, including emergency preparedness, plants and animals, cooking, sports, and even video game design.

How many merit badges are there? There are more than 135 BSA merit badges that Scouts can earn. Each merit badge has its own set of requirements that a Scout will need to satisfy before they can earn the badge. Detailed steps and requirements for each BSA merit badge can be found at the official Boy Scouts of America website, along with a list of the Eagle required merit badges.

The 20 Most Earned Boy Scout Merit Badges of 2021

  1. Swimming
  2. First Aid
  3. Environmental Science
  4. Camping
  5. Citizenship in the World
  6. Cooking
  7. Communication
  8. Rifle Shooting
  9. Personal Fitness
  10. Archery
  11. Citizenship in the Nation
  12. Fingerprinting
  13. Leatherwork
  14. Kayaking
  15. Citizenship in the Community
  16. Family Life
  17. Personal Management
  18. Emergency Preparedness
  19. Wood Carving
  20. Fishing

One of our favorite things about the Boy Scout uniform is the ability for troops to create their own customized patches and Boy Scout pins to wear on their uniforms with pride. How would you design a custom patch or pin for your troop?

The Complete List of Boy Scouts of America Patches and What They Mean

Shoulder Loops: Shoulder loops indicate the level of scouting that the Scout has reached. There are different colored shoulder loops to represent the different Scouting levels.

  • Cub Scout (only worn by Webelos and adult leaders): Blue
  • Boy Scout: Olive
  • Varsity Scout: Blaze
  • Venturer: Green
  • District and Council: Silver
  • Regional and National: Gold

Rank Badge: The rank badge identifies the (Scout rank) and is earned after completing the rank requirements; it is worn centered on the front of the left pocket. Scouts in the BSA wear their current rank, while Cub Scouts wear all of the ranks they have completed so far.

Cub Scout Ranks

  • Lion: Kindergarten
  • Bobcat: New Cub Scouts in 1st grade or above
  • Tiger: 1st grade or 6 years old
  • Wolf: 2nd grade or 7 years old
  • Bear: 3rd grade or 8 years old
  • Webelos: 4th and 5th grade or 9 years old
  • Arrow of Light: Highest rank in Cub Scouts

Boy Scout Ranks

  • Scout
  • Tenderfoot
  • Second Class
  • First Class
  • Star Scout
  • Life Scout
  • Eagle Scout

World Crest: The world crest patch is worn by all Scouts to show that they are a part of World Scouting. The world crest ring is not required, but a Scout can choose to wear it on their uniform. The world crest is worn above the left pocket, centered between the top of the pocket and the shoulder seam.

Service Star: Service stars are pins that display the Scout’s number of years in Scouting. They are worn just above the left pocket.

Arrow of Light: The Arrow of Light award is the highest award earned during Cub Scouts and shows that the Scout has completed all of the requirements to move on to BSA. It is the only Cub Scout badge that can be worn on the BSA uniform, and it is worn just below the left pocket.

Order of the Arrow: The Order of the Arrow (OA) lodge patch is used to identify scouts who are part of the OA, an honor society of the BSA. It is the only approved patch to be worn on the right pocket flap for Scouts in the BSA.

Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award: The Outdoor Activity Award is awarded to Cub Scouts who complete specific outdoor requirements. It is worn on the right pocket flap.

Temporary Patch: The right pocket is for temporary patches. Scouts can choose to wear any Scouting patch here. Temporary patches have a button loop to hang from the pocket button, so they can easily be switched out; only one temporary patch can be worn at a time.

Recruiter Patch: The Recruiter patch is awarded to Scouts that recruit a friend into their Scouting unit and is worn just below the right pocket.

American Flag: The American flag patch is worn just below the shoulder seam on the right sleeve; the Cub Scout and BSA uniforms come with the flag patch already sewn on.

Den Number: The den number patch is worn by Cub Scouts and represents the number their Tiger den was given when it was first formed. The number remains the same for the Cub Scouts in that den. It is worn just below the American flag patch.

Patrol Patch: The patrol patch represents the Scout patrol they are a member of. It is often a custom patch that each Scout patrol chooses or designs themselves.

Journey to Excellence: The Journey to Excellence patch is awarded to Scout troops for having strong, quality programs and meeting specific requirements. It is worn just below the patrol patch, and only the troop’s most recent award should be worn.

Council Shoulder Patch: The council shoulder patch represents the Scout’s local council. Each council has its own custom council shoulder patch (CSP) design. The CSP is worn flush against the left shoulder seam.

Unit Numerals: The unit numeral patches display the Scout’s troop number. Some will have a veteran bar with the number of years the troop has been active. The troop number is worn below the council shoulder patch.

Badge of Office: The Badge of Office patch represents the Scout’s position within their troop; the positions can be elected, assigned, or volunteered. The patch is worn in the center of the left sleeve, below the troop number.

Trained Strip: The Trained Strip award is earned by completing the required training for the Scout’s position within the troop. It is worn on on the sleeve, centered below and touching the Badge of Office patch it was earned for.

Merit Badge Sash: The merit badge sash is a separate piece of the Scout uniform and permanently displays all of the merit badges earned by the Scout. Merit badges are earned by completing the specific requirements for each badge, which demonstrate the Scout’s skill and knowledge of the badge’s subject. There are more than 135 merit badges that span a variety of subjects, like art, business, culture, nature, sports, science, technology, and more. The merit badge sash is only worn over the Scout’s uniform during formal events.