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Introduction to Boy Scout Merit Badges

Merit badge achievement is a core element of the Boy Scouting program.  There are over 120 merit badge options available at any one time and can be categorized in many ways.  There are badges for outdoor skills, hobbies, career exploration, citizenship, personal development and sportsmanship. 

For the sake of rank advancement though, it is important to know there are Eagle-required badges and optional (or non-Eagle required).  Both types are needed for advancement to ranks Star through Eagle.  Eagle-required badges form a core of experience for all Eagle Scouts.  The optional badges allow scouts to pursue varied familiar and new experiences.

An introduction to the Eagle-required badges follows:

  Eagle-required Badge Description Special notes*
  Camping Demonstrates ability to prepare and participate in camping experiences including packing and food preparation. Camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights.(up to 7 days of long-term camp may be counted).  Also participate in 2 special campouts (e.g. bike trip, backpacking, canoeing, snow camping)
  Cooking Develops cooking skills both indoor and outdoor using a variety of techniques and ensuring safety and nutrition. Includes:

9 meals at home

5 Camp meals

4 backpacking meals

  Citizenship in the Community Demonstrates knowledge of local government structure and involvement with the community. Includes 8 community service hours and attending a public meeting.
  Citizenship in the Nation Demonstrates knowledge of the national government structure and attention to national news events. Includes 2 visits/reports on national landmarks and writing a letter to your US representative or senator.
  Citizenship in the World Demonstrates an understanding of various forms of government, world current events and international organizations. Pick two activities such as visiting the State Department web site, attending an international event in your area or visiting with a student from another country.
  Communications Ensures scout has experience in written and verbal communications skills Includes attending a public meeting debate (taking notes) and being master of ceremonies at a troop campfire, court of honor or interfaith service.
  First Aid Learns techniques and tools that the scout can use to care for sick or injured persons until professional medical care can be obtained. Includes conducting CPR on a training device, evaluation of symptoms, and selection of proper first aid procedures to apply.
  Family Life Provides and documents practical experience contributing to his family unit as well as discusses why the family is important to society as a whole. Keeps a 90-day chore log.

Performs an individual project and a family project.

  Personal Fitness Plans and performs a 3 month fitness program demonstrating improvement and building confidence in the scout’s overall abilities. Performs initial fitness tests and keeps a 12-week fitness log.  Compare results at end of program and show improvement.
  Personal Management Develops life skills for setting short and long term goals, and introduces financial concepts and practices. Prepare a budget then log actual income, expenses and savings for 13 weeks.



The first of the Eagle-required alternate badges where the scout makes 1 choice.  In our council, many scouts choose and complete the Swimming badge at summer camp.  Cycling or Hiking also provides a path to Eagle based on individual scout preference. If a scout earns multiple of these badges, they may be used as Eagle-required badges for Star or Life rank, but only one may be applied toward the Eagle rank as Eagle-required.



Emergency Preparedness

The next set of Eagle-required alternatives. Lifesaving includes the Swimming badge as a requirement for completion.  Emergency Preparedness requires completion of the First Aid merit badge and provides a path for those scouts who chose Cycling, Hiking, or do not want to pursue further swimming skills. Same rule as above – only one will be applied toward the Eagle-rank as Eagle-required.


The Lifesaving badge is also a prerequisite to taking Lakefront boating sports at both council summer camps (canoeing, water sports, small boat sailing etc.)

  Environmental Science The last set of alternative Eagle-required badges. Environmental Science focuses on outdoor conservation, while the Sustainability badge focuses on family/community conservation efforts. Same rule as above – only one will be applied toward the Eagle-rank as Eagle-required.


Environmental Science is offered at both council summer camps.

or Sustainability

* See actual merit badge requirements for complete information.


Optional Merit Badges

The optional or “non”  Eagle-required badges are also important to the overall Boy Scout advancement program.  Over the course of advancement  from First Class to Eagle,  at least 8 optional badges must also be earned to achieve rank advancement beyond the 13 Eagle-required badges.  These badges create many opportunities for our scouts to learn new areas or develop current skills.  Including the 4 alternate badges above, there are 123 other optional merit badges available to pursue.

Some of the newest optional badges include: (2015) Animation; Signs, Signals and Codes; (2014) Digital Technology; Mining in Society; (2013) Game Design; Programming.


How do I locate Merit Badge Requirements for specific badges?

For more details on Merit Badges and the corresponding requirements:




Where can Merit badges be earned?

There are various opportunities for scouts to earn merit badges throughout the year.  Many troops structure their program to include merit badge meetings and outings supported by troop counselors (parents).  Merit badge forums and summer camp programs are also key resources providing our scouts opportunities to earn merit badges.  Other special programs may be offered throughout the year and are typically promoted through district roundtables or council communications.


How Can I become a Merit Badge Counselor?

You can help your unit and our district by becoming a Merit Badge Counselor.  Training is offered at each Shawnee Trails Roundtable – held on First Thursdays 7PM at Indian Creek Technology Center 4401 W. 103rd Street (103rd and Roe). 

See the Council web page for an overview of merit badge counselor requirements at:

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