Merit Badge Counselors
What’s It All About?
The merit badge counselor is a key player in the Boy Scout advancement program. Whatever your area of expertise or interest— whether it is a special craft or hobby (basketry, leatherwork, coin collecting), a profession (veterinary medicine, aviation, engineering), or perhaps a life skill (cooking, personal management, communication)—as a merit badge counselor, you play a vital role in stirring a young man’s curiosity about it. By serving as a counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so Scouts have the opportunity to broaden their horizons. And in doing so, your mission is to combine fun with learning.
You are both teacher and mentor to the Scout as he learns by doing. By presenting opportunities for growth via engaging activities like designing a Web page (Computers), performing an ollie and a wheelie (Snow Sports), or fabricating rope (Pioneering), you may pique a young man’s interest and inspire a Scout to develop a lifelong hobby, pursue a particular career, or become an independent, selfsupporting adult.
Learning to Be a Merit Badge Counselor
All merit badge counselors should seek training. It is important that they have a full understanding of their responsibilities and also of the recommended practices for quality counseling. A good resource is the Guide for Merit Badge Counselors.
Download the Merit Badge Counselor Information Form. Merit badge counselors must register as adult Scouters and be approved by the council advancement committee for each merit badge listed on this Merit Badge Counselor Information form. A merit badge counselor does not have to pay a registration fee, but must complete an Adult Application for position code 42, fill out this form, and complete BSA Youth Protection training. Submit the Adult Application with the Merit Badge Counselor Information form to your council. Counselors may wish to associate with a particular unit but are encouraged to serve any Scout from any unit.
Special Qualifications and Guidelines for Merit Badge Counselors
A number of merit badges involve activities that are restricted or require certification or special training for those supervising these activities. See the Guide to Advancement, topic 126.96.36.199, “Qualifications of Counselors.” Merit badge counselors may personally meet these required qualifications, or they may use others so qualified. Additionally, the BSA Guide to Safe Scouting has specific requirements and procedures for shooting sports and for aquatics, winter, and other activities. These policies apply to all BSA activities, including merit badge instruction. For other merit badges where specific BSA requirements do not exist, counselors should have sufficient depth of knowledge and experience to understand how to safely present the material.
Instructions to Counselors
- The unit leader (Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, crew Advisor, or Skipper) recommends and provides the name and contact information of at least one merit badge counselor to each Scout desiring to work on a merit badge. Before beginning to work with a youth, counselors should check the boy’s merit badge application (blue card) to ensure it is signed by the unit leader.
- Every Scout must have a buddy with him at each meeting with a merit badge counselor. This buddy could be another Scout, a parent or guardian, a brother or sister, or a relative or friend. There is no one-on-one contact allowed with Scouts and counselors—the buddy requirement is mandatory.
- Counselors may not add to or delete any merit badge requirements. Group instruction is allowed where special facilities and expert personnel make this most practical, or when Scouts are dependent on a few counselors for assistance. However, any group experience must provide attention to every individual candidate’s projects and progress, and assure each has actually and personally fulfilled all the requirements. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then every Scout must individually do so. It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of Scouts sitting in classrooms and watching demonstrations or remaining silent during discussions.
- When a Scout begins working on a merit badge, the current-year Boy Scout Requirements book lists the official requirements in effect at that time. If requirements change after a Scout has started working on a merit badge, he may stay with the requirements in effect when he started unless the BSA’s National Council places a specific timeline on the implementation of new requirements.