Scout Rank Advancement
Advancement & Awards
Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.
The advancement program for BSA Scouts of America is symbolized by the earning of seven ranks. The advancement program is often considered to be divided into two phases. The first phase from joining to First Class is designed to teach the scout scout skills, how to participate in a group and to learn self-reliance. The Scout badge is awarded when the Scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals and program. Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class have progressively harder requirements in the areas of Scout skills, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.
The second phase of Star, Life and Eagle is designed to develop leadership skills and allow the Scout to explore potential vocations through the merit badge program. The Star and Life ranks require that the scout serve in a position of responsibility and perform community service. Except for Scout rank (and Eagle Palms as of August 1, 2017), all ranks require that the candidate participate in a Scoutmaster conference and pass a Board of Review.
Scout was previously a joining badge, but is now considered the first rank, and is earned by completing certain requirements. As of January 2016, the Scout badge has a gold fleur-de-lis on a tan background. The badge is awarded when the scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals such as tying a square knot and knowing the Scout oath, law, motto, and slogan.
Tenderfoot is the second rank a scout can earn. A Scout can work on the requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks at the same time, but each rank must be earned in sequence. The badge is awarded when the Scout completes requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.
Second Class is the rank above Tenderfoot and below First Class. A Scout can work on the requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks at the same time, but must be earned in sequence. The badge is awarded when the Scout completes requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.
First Class is the rank above Second Class and below Star Scout. A Scout can work on the requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks at the same time, but must earn them in sequence. The badge is awarded when the Scout completes requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit. At this point, Scouts stop focusing on the Scout skills, and start working on leadership.
Star is the rank above First Class and below Life Scout. It is the third-highest rank. Star is awarded when the Scout serves actively in the troop in a position of responsibility for at least 4 months; performs at least six hours of community service; and earns six merit badges (four of which must be among the 14 required for Eagle Scout rank).
Life is the second-highest rank attainable, above Star and below Eagle. Life is awarded when the Scout serves actively in the troop, serves in a position of responsibility for six months, and performs six hours of community service. A Scout must also earn five merit badges (at least three of which must be required for the rank of Eagle) for a total of 11, including the six previously earned. Finally, the Scout must pass a Scoutmaster conference, and board of review.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in Scouting. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than two million young men.
Requirements include earning a minimum total of 21 merit badges, including all required badges that were not previously earned, and demonstration of Scout Spirit, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge that visibly recognizes the accomplishments of the Scout. Additional recognition can be earned through Eagle Palms, awarded for completing additional tenure, leadership and merit badge requirements.
What’s a Normal Timeline For Reaching Eagle Scout?
Most scouts spend 4 – 6 years in Scouting before earning their Eagle Rank. However, how long should a scout remain a Tenderfoot, or how many years should it take them before becoming a Life scout? The breakdown of this timeline might surprise you!
Generally speaking, one’s typical timeline in Scouting looks something like this:
1-2½ years to go from New Scout to First Class rank: During this time, scouts mainly complete rank requirements and learn useful survival skills. During this period, a scout’s goal should be to consistently attend troop meetings and learn everything in their Scouts BSA Handbook.
2 years to go from First Class rank to Life rank: During this time, earning merit badges should be a scout’s top priority (6 badges are required for Star rank, and 5 are required for Life). A scout should also strive to become a leader within their troop.
About 1-1½ years to go from Life rank to Eagle Scout: During this time, completing their Eagle Scout project and leading their troop should be a scout’s main focus. They’ll also need to complete a total of 21 merit badges to be eligible for their Eagle rank.
Most scouts tend to choose this type of timeline because they have other things going on in their life besides Scouting. Involvement with clubs, sports, and academics can often take time away from troop functions and ranking up.
One’s lack of time for Scouting often worsens as a scout gets older and takes on more outside responsibilities and school gets more and more involved. Therefore, it’s crucial to make the most of the years between earning your Tenderfoot and First Class rank.
To put it simply though, here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re trying to quickly earn your Eagle:
Stay organized and always keep a plan of the next requirements you’ll be completing.
Find a troop buddy to keep yourself accountable.
Work on multiple merit badges at the same time.
How Can I Earn Enough Merit Badges For Eagle?
Remember tip 3? Work on multiple merit badges at the same time! Outside of rank advancement, scouts must also complete 21 merit badges: 14 of these badges are Eagle-required, and the other 7 are up to you (for a complete list of Eagle Required Merit Badges, and their difficulty rankings, click here).
Each merit badge contains hands-on and knowledge-related requirements that a Scout must complete. There are a wide variety of merit badges to choose from, in topics ranging from Chess to American Business, to Mammal Studies. As of 2021, there are a total of 135 merit badges available for scouts to earn.
Merit badges are usually done throughout the scout’s career with most scouts completing an average of 4 merit badges per year (fewer when starting out, and more as they approach eagle). I can personally attest that most merit badges take a while to complete, and many require you to learn, then demonstrate hands-on skills!
Which Eagle-Required Merit Badges Take the Longest to Complete?
Within the list of Eagle-required merit badges, some take longer to complete than others. In most cases, the badges that are the longest and most difficult are those that require you to track things over an extended period of time. Below are the Eagle-required merit badges with the most intense time commitments:
Personal Management: Track and record your actual income, expenses, and savings for 13 consecutive weeks
Personal Fitness: Outline and complete a comprehensive 12-week physical fitness program while logging your activity each day.
Citizenship in the Community: Volunteer at least 8 hours of your time by working for a charitable organization.
Family Life: Prepare a list of your regular chores and do them for 90 days. Keep a record of how often you do each of them.
Communication: Interview someone and attend a community meeting.
Camping: Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events.
Merit badges like Camping, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management, and Family Life are not too difficult to complete, task-wise, but have requirements that take a long time to finish. For example, carrying out a 12-week fitness regimen or sticking to a budget for 13 weeks can be challenging.
On the other hand, merit badges like Communication and Citizenship in the Community are tricky to complete because they require you to volunteer, go to community meetings, and interview actual people. I’d advise starting all these badges well before your 17th birthday so that you have enough time to finish them.
So, if there is a city-council meeting coming up, feel free to attend it to get your Citizenship in the Community requirement completed. That way, even if you don’t want to earn the rest of the badge right away, you’ll have that difficult requirement done for when you actually start trying to complete it.
How do I Complete Merit badges Quickly?
Speaking of completing merit badges, the all-time best way to complete merit badges quickly is to attend scout winter and summer camps. When attending these fun week-long camps, scouts can often complete 3-4 merit badges at a time! Many Eagle Scouts, earned over 30 merit badges and about 1/3 of them come from summer camps!
Some badges, like the Eagle-Required badges of Swimming, Lifesaving, etc. are best completed at Summer Camp because it's harder to get access to pools and BSA Certified Lifeguards who are Merit Badge Counselors outside of that space.
Earning merit badges outside of summer and winter camps is definitely possible and something you should do (especially if you set up merit badge counseling meetings the right way), but there’s no better way to quickly and thoroughly complete badges than at summer and winter camps.
What’s the Point of Becoming an Eagle Scout?
By now you might be thinking, “Becoming an Eagle Scout sounds insanely difficult. Why would I spend years of my life working to climb the ranks in Scouting?” Fantastic question! Below, are some of the non-obvious benefits of becoming an Eagle Scout.
First and foremost, becoming an Eagle Scout is an achievement that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. You'll find other Eagles from all different walks of life, and bond over our shared Scouting history.
When applying for college, Eagles are eligible for Eagle Scout-specific scholarships. Additionally, colleges love admitting Eagle Scouts! By writing about your Scouting journey on your Eagle Scout college application essays, you’ll have a strong edge over the competition and be much more likely to get accepted to your dream school.
Your Eagle rank can even help you get a leg up in the “real world!” By detailing the leadership and communication skills you learned as a scout in your Eagle Scout resume, you’ll be able to successfully stand out in job applications and interviews.
Most importantly though, the self-confidence and fulfillment you’ll gain from reaching Eagle will set you on the path towards accomplishing even greater feats throughout your life. Heck, more than two-thirds of all American astronauts had some involvement in Scouting, and many of them even reached Eagle!
What we're trying to say here is that every bit of effort you put into earning your Eagle will pay off. While it might seem difficult and overwhelming at times, just know that you can do it if you keep pushing forward!
We hope you’re now prepared to climb through the Scouting ranks and become an Eagle Scout! While 4-6 years may seem like a long time to focus on one goal, know that what you’re doing is worthwhile, and will help you for the rest of your life. 🙂