Troop 542
 Earning Merit Badges
This guide will explain why and how to earn merit badges in Boy Scouting. Please note there are links below.

Why You Need Merit Badges

Required for Rank Advancement

In order to become an Eagle — scouting's highest rank and honor — a scout must progress through that rank and the six preceding ranks of scouting.

The ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class have no requirements concerning merit badges. However, the ranks that follow - Star, Life, and finally Eagle — do. This does not mean that scouts shouldn't begin earning merit badges early, as we'll see.

The Star rank requires earning six merit badges, four of which are from the list of Eagle-required merit badges (we'll look at Eagle-required badges below). The Life rank requires earning five merit badges, three of which are from the list of Eagle-required merit badges. To earn the rank of Eagle, the scout must in total have earned 21 merit badges: the 10 Eagle-required badges, the 2 "either/or" merit badges, and 9 additional merit badges of the scout's choosing.

Required for the Eagle Rank

For Eagle, the scout needs to earn 21 merit badges. There are certain badges that are mandatory because they help the boy to learn important skills and aquire helpful knowledge. The Boy Scouts of America has designated 10 that the boy must earn, including:

  1. Camping
  2. Citizenship in the Community
  3. Citizenship in the Nation
  4. Citizenship in the World
  5. Communications
  6. Environmental Science
  7. Family Life
  8. First Aid
  9. Personal Fitness
  10. Personal Management

In addition to these ten are required 2 merit badges, of the scouts choosing, that come from each of the following two categories:

  1. Cycling OR Hiking OR Swimming
  2. Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving

For example, the scout can choose Cycling and Emergency Preparedness but not Emergency Preparedness and Lifesaving.

Finally, 9 additional badges must be attained. These can come from the remaining 100+ merit badges available or, if the scout has earned more than necessary from the "either/or" list, may count those.

The Process

Let's break down the steps for earning any merit badge:

Step #1: Choose a Merit Badge

The Boy Scout Handbook provides a complete list of all the available merit badges. The Boy Scouts Requirements Book goes a step further by providing a list of the requirements for each badge, so that you can see what one entails before you "dive in." It is recommended (though not required) that the scout chooses a badge that interests him or that is required for Eagle.

Step #2: Get an Official Merit Badge Book

Each merit badge has an accompanying book that gives the requirements and explains the merit badge's subject matter in great detail. These books are not necessarily required, but are very helpful. Additionally, a scout may borrow a book from the Troop's Library, which offers many (though not all) of them.

Step #3: Get Scoutmaster Approval

Ask the Scoutmaster for a "blue card, which will authorize you to begin work on the badge. The Scoutmaster will sign one and give it to you.

Step #4: Contact a Merit Badge Counselor

A merit badge counselor is someone who will approve of your work when you complete the badge. You should contact them before you begin work though, as they can answer any questions that you have. A list of counselors in the Calumet Council can be picked up for free at the Scout Shop's main desk, or the scoutmaster has a list of counselors from in our troop (due to privacy issues, this list is not made available on-line). Call and ask the counselor if they would be willing.

Step #5: Complete the Requirements

After you have a blue card and have a counselor lined-up, you may begin work on the merit badge's requirements. Call your counselor if you have any questions about the requirements.

Step #6: Meet with your Merit Badge Counselor

Next, contact your counselor to set up a meeting. This could take place at the counselor's home, before a troop meeting, or at a public place like the Library. When you meet with the counselor, bring your blue card and a "buddy" (a parent or friend). If the counselor isn't satisfied, they may ask you to rework a requirement and get back to them. Otherwise, they will sign the blue card, keep their 1/3 section of it, and return the scoutmaster- and applicant-portions to you. Give the scoutmaster-portion to the scoutmaster.

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you keep the applicant's record of the blue card until you become an Eagle Scout. You will need proof that you have completed the badge.

At the next Court of Honor (usually held quarterly - see the Troop's Calendar), you will receive your merit badge, which can be sewn to a merit badge sash, which can be bought at the Scout Shop.

Alternative Ways to Earn Merit Badges

Working in a Group

Occasionally, the troop or council may offer scouts the opportunity to complete a merit badge in a group-setting. In this case, you don't have to worry about finding a counselor.

Summer Camp

Summer camp offers scouts a great opportunity to earn multiple merit badges in one week. The troop highly recommends that scouts attend.