Merit Badge Counselor Information
The merit badge counselor is a key player in the 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 person’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 our BSA local council. This entails contacting us, then obtaining, completing, and turning in the “Adult Application” and all additional documents as required. We 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 helps preserve that environment.
For more information, consult the Guide for Merit Badge Counseling, No. 34532 or Merit Badge Counselor Information, No. 34405 . To learn more about the merit badge program, see section 7 of the Guide to Advancement, “The Merit Badge Program.”
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 their unit leader know. To get them started, the leader gives them 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 their 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 their 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 they have 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 their buddy present. Update the blue card as the Scout completes each requirement. When the Scout 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.