⚜️Merit Badge Counselors⚜️
⚜️Guide for Merit Badge Counselors
For more information, consult the Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 34532.
To learn more about the merit badge program, click here to go to section 7 of the Guide to Advancement.
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, communications)—as a merit badge counselor, you can play a vital role in stirring a young man’s curiosity about that particular topic. By serving as a merit badge counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so that Scouts can explore a topic of interest.
If you are not yet a merit badge counselor, it is easy to become a volunteer. You will need to register with the Boy Scouts of America, through your BSA local council. This entails contacting the local council, then obtaining, completing, and turning in the “Adult Application.” The council will then process the application. (Every applicant is screened.)
In order to register, merit badge counselors are expected to complete BSA Youth Protection. This training can be done through the BSA’s Online Learning Center. The Boy Scouts of America seeks to create a safe environment for young people and adult leaders to enjoy the program and related activities. BSA Youth Protection training helpspreserve that environment.
⚜️Understanding the Scouting Program
The Scouting program emphasizes helping young men develop character, citizenship, and mental and physical fitness. Among the handful of methods used to build on these aims of Scouting are adult association, leadership development, and advancement.
Besides parents and relatives, school teachers, religious leaders, and possibly coaches, most Scout-age youth don’t have much contact with many other adults or professionals. A Scout’s association with his merit badge counselors provides an excellent way for him to grow and gain confidence through exposure to quality adults who serve as positive role models and mentors. Meeting people from business and community leaders to trained specialists and enthusiastic hobbyists, a Scout can experience personal growth and a positive life-altering experience while in pursuit of a merit badge.
The Boy Scouts of America at a Glance
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has maintained its purpose and mission to prepare youth to become responsible, participating citizens and leaders. Throughout the years, the Scout Oath and Law have served as the guiding light for BSA youth members.
To help carry out its mission, the BSA relies on nearly 300 local councils. These service centers operate autonomously, sort of like franchises. Every local council has its own support staff and operates under the guidance of a Scout executive. To more efficiently serve its members, the local council is divided into districts, which are managed by district executives. The district executive serves as the grassroots contact between the local council and its volunteers.
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
⚜️A Merit Badge Counselor Is …
As a merit badge counselor, your mission is to join fun with learning. You are both a teacher and mentor as the Scout works on a merit badge and learns by doing. Your hands-on involvement could inspire a Scout to develop a lifelong hobby, pursue a particular career, or become an independent, self-supporting adult.
A Scout first expresses an interest in a particular merit badge by letting his unit leader know. To get him started, the leader gives him a signed Application for Merit Badge (blue card) along with the name and contact information for a district/council approved merit badge counselor. The Scout then contacts the merit badge counselor and makes an appointment. The merit badge counselor sets a date and time to meet with the Scout and his buddy, and may suggest the Scout bring the merit badge pamphlet along with the blue card.
The blue card is the nationally recognized merit badge record. This tool makes the recordkeeping easier for the Scout, the merit badge counselor, and the unit leader. At summer camp, a Scout may receive partial credit for completion of a merit badge on the blue card, which goes to the Scoutmaster at week’s end. Back home, the Scout would need to contact a merit badge counselor for assistance with completing the rest of the requirements.
At the first meeting, the Scout and his merit badge counselor review and set expectations for completing the requirements. In some cases, the Scout may share with the merit badge counselor the work he has already started or accomplished. As the merit badge counselor, you and the Scout work out a tentative schedule for completing the merit badge. You should consider both short-term and long-term goals, keeping other obligations (school, Scouting, sports, and so on) in mind, and set dates, times, and a location for future meetings. The number of meetings will depend on the difficulty of the requirements and the preparation and ability of the Scout. Remember, the Scout must always have a buddy with him at these meetings.
Your duty is to be satisfied that each Scout who comes to you meets all the requirements for the merit badge you are coaching. You do this by helping Scouts overcome the different hurdles of the requirements and making them aware of the deeper aspects of the subject through their learning experience. You may tell about your own experiences to help positively reinforce the subject matter. However, you may not tack on new requirements or extra work. While you may guide and instruct a Scout on the subject matter, he must do the work himself.
As each requirement is completed, you will test the Scout individually, with his buddy present. Update the blue card as the Scout completes each requirement. When the young man has completed all the requirements, you sign off on the card and the Scout returns the completed card to his unit leader.
You may wish to seek additional training from your local council/district on local policies and procedures for merit badge counselors.
Summer Camp Merit Badge Counselors
The same qualifications and rules for merit badge counselors apply to council summer camp merit badge programs. All merit badge counselors must be at least 18 years of age. Camp staff members under age 18 may assist with instruction but cannot serve in the role of the merit badge counselor.
The merit badge counselor assesses the Scout’s knowledge to ensure he has completed all the required work—no more, and no less. You may not add to, delete from, or modify the merit badge requirements in any way.
Here are some simple tips that every merit badge counselor should keep in mind.
- Make the Scout feel welcome and relaxed.
- Stimulate the Scout’s interest by showing him something related to the merit badge subject, but don’t overwhelm him; remember, he is probably a beginner.
- Carefully review each requirement, start with easy skills or questions, and encourage practice.
- Insist that the Scout do exactly what the requirements specify. Many of the requirements involve hands-on activities that call for a Scout to show or demonstrate; make; list; discuss; or collect, identify, and label—and he must do just that.
- Don’t make the requirement more difficult—or any easier—than stated. A Scout may undertake more activities on his own initiative, but he cannot be pushed to do so.
- During testing, the Scout might need help in a particular area or with a certain skill, and may need to be retested later to ensure the requirement has been fulfilled.
- Encourage self-evaluation and self-reflection, and establish an atmosphere that encourages the Scout to ask for help.
- Take a genuine interest in the Scout’s projects, and encourage completion.
⚜️ Guide To Advancement
188.8.131.52 About Merit Badge Counselors (Training)
184.108.40.206 Qualifications of Counselors
People serving as merit badge counselors must maintain registration with the Boy Scouts of America as merit badge counselors and be approved by their local council advancement committee for each of their badges. This includes those working at summer camp or in any other group instruction setting, or providing web-based opportunities. See “Counselor Approvals and Limitations,” 220.127.116.11. There are no exceptions.
For example, Scoutmasters must register as merit badge counselors and be approved for any badge they wish to counsel or sign off in their troop. Before working with Scouts, counselors must have completed Youth Protection training within the last two years. They must be men or women of good character, age 18 or older, and recognized as having the skills and education in the subjects they cover. It is important, too, they have good rapport with Scout-age boys and unit leaders.
It is acceptable for a counselor registered in one council to approve merit badges for Scouts in another. This is an important consideration, especially in areas where counselors are scarce, when Scouts are away from home and want to continue advancing, or when merit badge experiences include web-based components provided by someone in another council.
Several badges involve activities for which the Boy Scouts of America has implemented strategies to improve safety, enhance the Scouts’ experiences, and manage risk. These activities often require supervision with specialized qualifications and certifications. Merit badge counselors who do not meet the specific requirements may use the services of helpers who do. Additional details can be found below, and also in the Guide to Safe Scouting and the merit badge pamphlets.
⚜️ ⚜️ ⚜️ General Supervision Requirements
- ⚜️Swimming and watercraft activities must be conducted in accordance with BSA Safe Swim Defense or BSA Safety Afloat, respectively, and be supervised by mature and conscientious adults at least 21 years old and trained in the program applicable. Counselors for merit badges involving swimming or the use of watercraft must be so trained, or use helpers who are.
- ⚜️All physical activities presented in any Scouting program must be conducted in accordance with “The Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety.” These 16 points, embodying good judgment and common sense, can be found at www.scouting.org/ HealthandSafety/Sweet16.
- ⚜️CPR instruction, wherever it is required, must be taught by people currently trained as CPR instructors by a nationally certified provider, such as the American Red Cross, the Emergency Care and Safety Institute, or the American Heart Association.
⚜️ ⚜️ ⚜️ The following merit badges have special qualifications or certifications for either the merit badge counselor or the supervisor of certain activities that may be involved. Counselors and advancement administrators should consult the merit badge pamphlets for details and to maintain awareness of changes and updates as pamphlets are revised.
⚜️Archery. Archery activities must be supervised by a BSA National Camping School–trained shooting sports director or USA Archery or National Field Archery Association instructor, or by someone who has been trained by one of the three; or alternatively, the activities may be supervised by someone with at least Level 1 training in the operation of an archery range from USA Archery, NFAA, or an equivalent.
⚜️Canoeing. Those supervising canoeing activities must have either BSA Aquatics Instructor or Canoeing Instructor certification from the American Canoe Association, American Red Cross, or equivalent; OR local councils may approve individuals previously certified as such, or trained by an instructor so qualified.
⚜️Climbing. All climbing, belaying, and rappelling exercises and activities must be supervised by a rock climbing instructor who is a mature and conscientious adult at least 21 years old, and who is trained in BSA Climb On Safely and understands the risks inherent to these activities. Training as a BSA climbing Level 2 Instructor is highly recommended. Someone with certification in First Aid/CPR/AED from the American Red Cross (or equivalent) must be present at these activities.
⚜️Kayaking. Those supervising kayaking activities must have formal training in kayaking and paddle craft instruction, evidenced by either BSA Aquatics Instructor or Paddle Craft Safety Instructor certification, or kayaking instructor certification from the American Canoe Association, British Canoe Union, or American Red Cross, or equivalent; OR local councils may approve individuals previously certified as such, or trained by an instructor so qualified.
⚜️Lifesaving. Demonstrations or activities in or on the water must be supervised by an adult at least 21 years old with certification in Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED or equivalent, and also as BSA Lifeguard or Aquatics Instructor or equivalent.
⚜️Rifle Shooting. The merit badge counselor is responsible for ensuring that all instruction or other activities involving any handling of firearms or live ammunition is consistent with state and federal law and supervised by a certified BSA National Camping School (NCS) shooting sports director, or National Rifle Association (NRA) Rifle Shooting Instructor or Coach.
Instruction or other activities involving handling muzzleloaders must be supervised by an NCS shooting sports director or NRA/National Muzzleloader Rifle Association (NMLRA)–certified muzzleloader firearms instructor. Shooting must be supervised by an NRAcertified Range Safety Officer (RSO). If instruction and shooting are to occur at the same time, both the RSO and qualified instructor must be present. The supervisor and instructor may not be the same person. Note that commercial shooting ranges may provide RSOs. See the Guide to Safe Scouting and the BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 30931, for further details on shooting sports.
⚜️Rowing. Those supervising rowing activities must have either BSA Aquatics Instructor certification or equivalent; OR local councils may approve individuals previously certified as such, or trained by an instructor so qualified.
⚜️Scuba Diving. All phases of scuba instruction—classroom, pool, and open-water training—are limited to instructors trained and certified by one of the BSA’s recognized scuba agencies as found in the Guide to Safe Scouting.
⚜️Shotgun Shooting. The merit badge counselor is responsible for ensuring that all instruction or other activities involving any handling of firearms or live ammunition is consistent with state and federal law and supervised by a certified NCS shooting sports director or NRA Shotgun Instructor or Coach. Instruction or other activities involving handling muzzle-loading shotguns must be supervised by an NCS shooting sports director or NRA/NMLRA certified muzzle-loading shotgun instructor. Shooting must be supervised by an NRA-certified Range Safety Officer. If instruction and shooting are to occur at the same time, both the RSO and qualified instructor must be present. They may not be the same person. Note that commercial shooting ranges may provide RSOs. See the Guide to Safe Scouting and the BSA National Shooting Sports Manual, No. 30931, for further details on shooting sports.
⚜️Snow Sports. Activities in the field must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult 21 years or older who is committed to compliance with BSA Winter Sports Safety as defined in the Guide to Safe Scouting.
⚜️Swimming. Demonstrations or activities in or on the water must be conducted according to BSA Safe Swim Defense and BSA Safety Afloat.
⚜️Whitewater. Those supervising whitewater activities must be certified as whitewater canoeing or kayaking instructors by the American Canoe Association or have equivalent certification, training, or expertise.
⚜️⚜️⚜️ All certifications listed above must be current.
In approving counselors, the local council advancement committee has the authority to establish a higher minimum, reasonable level of skills and education for the counselors of a given merit badge than is indicated in “Qualifications of Counselors,” 18.104.22.168.For example, NRA certification could be established as a council standard for approving counselors for the Rifle Shooting or Shotgun Shooting merit badges.
The required qualifications above for merit badge counseling and supervision not only assist in managing risk, but also give counselors credibility. Scouts will see them as people of importance they can look up to and learn from. A well-qualified counselor can extend a young person’s attention span: More will be heard and understood, discussions will be more productive, and true interest developed. The conversations can lead to a relationship of mutual respect where the Scout is confident to offer his thoughts and opinions and value those of his merit badge counselor. Thus it is that social skills and self-reliance grow, and examples are set and followed.