Merit Badges and Scout Advancement

2016 Boy Scout Rank Advancement Changes

All Scouts MUST use the new requirements regardless of rank as of Jan 1, 2017 : Significant changes to the Rank Advancements for Boy Scouts takes effect.  While you DO NOT have to purchase a new book, you do need to BE PREPARED to follow the new requirements.  These links below will help you do that.

  • 2016 Boy Scout Requirements - Comparison to 12th Edition [2010-2015] Requirements : a rank by rank guide to the new requirement changes is found here.
  • A PowerPoint with an detailed overview of what is required for teaching the new requirements for each rank.  Excellent resource and should be reviewed by SM, each ASM, Instructor, Troop Guide and Advancement Chair.  Can also be found here.
  • 2015 Guide to Advancement is found here, which discusses a lot of the changes for Cub and Boy Scouts.  Large document from National.
  • BSA Scout Handbook Requirements Insert: click here for the insert to go in the 12th Edition Scout Handbook
  • The BSA Scout Handbook Requirements Insert with the Translations Between Ranks [made by Mr. Vreeland] is HERE!                            NOTE: It is a 4 MB file.   It shows which requirements from the 12th Edition of the Scout Handbook [c. 2010] moved to the corresponding requirements for the 13th Edition [c.2015]. 

In the Words of Yoda: Info on Merit Badges, Find You Will......

Here you'll find postings of new and anticipated badges, Eagle requirement changes, as well as all the merit badges currently offered and grouped in Categories based upon Level of Difficulty.  Click on the Merit Badge name to launch a link to the  current requirements.

Before working on a Merit Badge, you need a Blue Card.  Here is a great guide from ScoutMaster Bucky on how to properly fill out a Blue Card.  Please click here.

Links to Merit Badge Worksheets can be found here and here.

Also, a PDF copy of the requirements for almost every Merit Badge Book - IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER -  can be found via this link by clicking on the on the badge's patch image [or the Red Swirly A icon under it].  The list is found here 

Here is also a good overview of the Merit Badge Program:

OR In the sections below you will find the same Merit Badges grouped by level of challenge.  Again you can  click on the badge's patch image to get to the requirements.

Thanks to a great Merit Badge Review site for much of this information.  Click here.  NOTE:  Their domain expired December of 2013 so now this maybe the only place you can get this information.

Two Scouts - David and Jordan - from the Chief Seattle Council [ on the Kitsap Peninsula] earned every Merit Badge that existed through the 2010 Jamboree. They then reviewed and ranked each of them them according to level of difficulty and time for completion.  They published their findings in 2011 as a text document on the website referenced above.  Additional merit badge critiques, for those MB's release since 2011, are based upon discussions from various blog sites, like Bryan on Scouting.  What this website attempts to achieve, is to combine their reviews in graphical form with links to the official requirements as posted on, so that is is more use friendly.  There is also a separate grouping below so one can visually see the badge option requirements for Eagle Scout.  

Bryan on Scouting  has a great blog site for keeping up to date on these changes.  Click here.

Cyber Chip is NOW REQUIRED for certain ranks.

 Details on the Cyber Chip can be found here.

Merit Badges by Level of Difficulty

Newest Merit Badges:

Exploration MB - February 24, 2017

BSA has announced a new MB just in time for 2017 Jamboree called Exploration.  

                    Find your next Indiana Jones!
Bold Go Where No Scout has Gone BEFORE!

Photography will see a Major update due late 2015/early 2016

Update will include the latest advancements in digital photography and so-called “iPhoneography

Animation MB 
Launched: May 19, 2015:       Level : 3
Description: Computer or traditional animation tasks that will test a Scout’s creativity, artistic skills, and storytelling abilities.   [Mr V's comments:  having seen a couple Scouts work through this one - some online tools are needed but can also use photo / video cameras for portions of it.  Can be time consuming and technically challenging for some.]
BONUS: Animation is one of the first merit badges to offer an interactive digital merit badge pamphlet. This digital pamphlet will bring the merit badge experience to life with videos, simulations, slide shows, interactive Q&As and more.

Signs, Signals and Codes: 

Launched: 4-1-15                 Requirements: Click here.  Level : 2 [ Mr V's comments: a fun class used to just introduce some cool topics.  This was the old signaling badge with a modern update]. 


American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most used language in the United States. The Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge will cover Morse code, ASL, Braille, signaling, trail markings, and other nonverbal communications [cyclist hand signals, airport/flight deck crew signals, athletic referee signs].

Newest Merit Badges from 2012-2014
Here are some the newest merit badges that have come out since 2012, especially the new Cooking badge that is required for Eagle Scout.  Make sure that you are following the latest requirements by checking out the links below via clicking on the icon and/or merit badge name.
Digital Technology - launched in 2014; replaced Computers
Mining in Society  - launched in 2014
Level 1 – Easiest Badges to Complete (great for 1st year Scouts)



Do yourself a favor, though, and do this through your sheriff’s office. Much more interesting. Or, here’s an online course specific to the badge.

Mammal Study

  [could be level 2]

Pulp and Paper


Fire Safety














[It's easy if you have a pet.]

Wood Carving
Level 2 – Not Too Difficult
American Labor
Bird Study – could tag team with Fish and Wildlife Management
 [could be level 3 – depending upon physical ability, etc]
Crime Prevention

Digital Technology [replaced Computers in 2014 / Could be a level 3 if not comfortable or if don't have access to equipment]



[easy if 1st Class]



Level 2 if you know how to skate already.


*** Chess

 [could be level 3 – if you do not know how to play; you have to teach someone]

Coin Collecting


The hardest part about this is making an appointment to see the dentist.





Graphic Arts
*** Reptile and Amphibian Study  [Could be level 3 since you need to keep one for at least a month]



If you have a weather service office nearby, this can be very cool.

*** Astronomy

 [could be level 3 – due to visit or Star Party;  but most out of good Astronomy book]

MovieMaking [originally called Cinematography] - slightly updated in 2014 with more digital technology
[Not for stamps or coins]

Disabilities Awareness 

Almost level 3 because of the visits involved.


[could be level 3 – since actually have to catch and clean a fish]



Can combine skills with "Mammal Study" and "Citizenship in the Community"

Safety  [This covers more of accident awareness, action plans for disaster recovery or urban action response with your family].

 Level 3 – Moderate Difficulty

American Cultures


The hardest part is getting a high enough score to pass.


If your troop is active in backpacking and camping, this shouldn’t be too hard.

Composite Materials

Hard part is finding a qualified counselor; some of the troops do neat things like make skateboards


 Basic common sense. Easy if you’ve already done Public Speaking, so do that one 1st


Not so hard if you’re already familiar with electronics; otherwise, it takes a bit more work to fully grasp. Another IEEE badge.  Do at same time as Radio

Fish and Wildlife Management

Could be level 2 Requires a visit and building a bird feeder. Do with Bird Study.





Insect Study

 Dropped down to level 3 now that bug mounting is removed








Model Design and Building

Depending upon your dexterity, could be very easy… or not. A trebuchet takes care of req. 4c, but ask SM before launching it at a meeting.


Not too hard if you can take advantage of Score-O.  Could almost be level 2. 



Can probably do with or right after Sculpture since they are quite similar.  



If you use the weblink , this is pretty easy to understand.  Do this at the same time as the Electronics badge.


It’s the CPR requirement that puts this in the moderate category. Get Swimming first.

Stamp Collecting






Traffic Safety

The photos of the wrecks aregruesome, but the actual requirements are far less than the state’s drivers’ exam books.

Water Sports
Water skiing and the like.

American Heritage

 Get an award at the same time by doing just a little more – Youth Patriotism Award.


 Takes 4 months in a sport, and you can’t use the same time period that you do for Sports.


Moved down to level 3 only because of updated CPR requirement.

Dog Care 





Could be level 2 if working with someone with good background; Use the online module at to make this make more sense.

Farm Mechanics

Finding a good counselor for this who has a farm is the hard part.  Good to tag team with Auto Maintenance, especially at summer camp.


*almost* in the  Level 1 / Easy category. Requires visits and a lot of collection and identification.




Indian Lore

If you live near a reservation, this can be pretty easy! The only thing that moves it out of Level 1 / Easy is needing to teach other Scouts or give a presentation. Here are some of  Indian Place Names from Texas for requirement 4g.


Not too hard if you’re a good swimmer and have your Swimming

 badge FIRST 



Takes a long time if you keep ants for a season. Hint: meal worms hatch quickly.  

Personal Fitness

Not difficult, just takes effort and a long time to do it. Probably best for older Scouts to do.

Public Health

Requires a visit to a government health agency, plus you might not agree with everything that’s in the book. If your parent is the counselor, that’s the best way to go for this. Some of the “discuss” portions may not be really appropriate for certain age or group settings.


Requires a visit, but everything else can easily be done at a model railroad club or show

Small-Boat Sailing

Best done at camp.


New 2013

[Mr V's notes: Pretty straight forward regarding water, energy, food and other resource usage with respect to person, family and community.  A lot of little steps. Alternate to Environmental Science for Eagle.]

Truck Transportation


Mr V's notes: Something that every Scout should try. [Could be level 4 If you cannot get a qualified welder to teach you] This badge can be done in about 8-10 hours of instruction time.

Animal Science

Easy if you live on a farm.  Hard if need to convince mom to raise a chicken.


Building the model is the most difficult part, but at least the badge has interesting requirements.


Required for Eagle starting Jan 1, 2014.  Open right away, since you’ll do most of the requirements while camping. Cooking merit badge is an option for the National Outdoor Badge for Camping



Environmental Science

A lot of observing involved, but not terribly long or difficult. Almost a level 2.  Make sure to read the book because the experiments are in it.  Alternate to Sustainability for Eagle.


Not as easy as you think! Requires knots, proper technique, and catching two fish.  Combine it with Fishing, as they overlap.


A lot of fun but need a driver!


Really should take a few months of lessons to get most out of this badge.



Landscape Architecture

What makes this more difficult than some is finding a landscape architect that you can shadow.

Mining in Society:

Launched: February 2014 Mr. V's notes: having completed the training for this, there is some challenges with some of the requirements either being done on location or online.  Geology is not required but could be helpful.


500 word report or 5-10 minute speech could make this level 4


Knots, knots, and more knots. This is a lot of fun, especially if you can do it at a Camporee.

Public Speaking

Do BEFORE Communication




Rifle Shooting

Space Exploration

A lot of reading/book work, but once you know what you’re doing, the rocket is the best part.



Best to get a FIRST summer camp. Has CPR requirement. Need to successfully complete the BSA swimmer test. Swimming merit badge is required for the National Outdoor Badge for Aquatics

Veterinary Medicine



Could almost be a level 2 if you have the tools or a shop at school.



Level 4 – Difficult [These badges have resource constraints or are very Time-Consuming badges]

Automotive Maintenance

 It’s a lot to remember, and most of the requirements are “demonstrate”.



Citizenship in the Community

 Requires interviews, visits, and a public presentation. Yes, if you do it RIGHT, this is a hard badge. Need 8 community services hours


 The requirements aren’t that difficult, but it does require 7 different rides, including a 50-miler with time constraints.  Revised May 2013: This will add a Mountain Biking option to the requirements


Requires interviews, reports, but the hard part of this is running a business.


Game Design
Not so easy! Placed as level 4 due to these requirements:
- Design a new game. Any game medium or combination of mediums is acceptable.
- Prototype the game.
-Blind test the game.

Though not earned by original badge analyzers, placed as level 4 due to three requirements:
 - Identify and interview with a buddy (and with your parent's permission and merit badge counselor's approval) an individual in your community who has invented a useful item.
- Think of an item you would like to invent that would solve a problem
- Build a working prototype of the item you invented for requirement 6


Can get expensive, depending upon which option you choose.  Plus need to find metal worker to teach / mentor you 

Personal Management

Time-consuming, but not overly difficult


Could be level 3 if part of robotics club; cost of equipment makes it level 4

Search & Rescue
Though not earned by original badge analyzers, placed as level 4 due to these requirements [almost level 5] : - Complete the training for ICS-100, Introduction to Incident Command System.
- Discuss and demonstrate the ability to utilize the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) system

Soil and Water Conservation

 This is a fun one, but there’s a lot involved





 It’s not the actual camping, but the 20 nights and making sure some of the camp outs fit the specific requirements. Open it as soon as you join Scouts. 

Citizenship in the Nation

Make sure to allow sufficient time to really go through the Constitution. A good badge to do with your American Government class. Could take 30-40 hours to do.

Emergency Preparedness

Some say easier than Lifesaving unless a good swimmer. Earn  First Aid Merit Badge first



Family Life

 Could be a level 3, if you’re a self-starter.





Home Repairs





















 requires a doctor visit and medical volunteer hours.


Plant Science


Hard to do if sky; if you're a natural could be level 3.

Shotgun Shooting

Access to a range and getting a high enough score to pass is what makes this difficult.


Not difficult, but you have to be on two different sports teams for a season each in order to qualify, so it can take a long time.


Tedious for those of us who don’t like chemistry. Not as difficult for science geeks



Citizenship in the World

Can also use to get the World Conservation Award for Boy Scouts










First Aid

A lot of requirements that tie to Tenderfoot, 2nd Class and 1st Class.  Taking a CPR course and a First Aid course will get most of the requirements marked off. 



The hard part is the 20-mile hike. Takes awhile to get in the (5) 10-milers, but enjoyable. NOTE: The hikes in requirements  5 & 6 can be used in fulfilling Second Class Rank  and First Class Rank rank requirements, but only if Hiking merit badge requirements 1, 2, 3, and 4 have been completed to the satisfaction of your counselor. 


Time-consuming — BUT here’s the thing: If you do the kayaking option for the Whitewater badge, and earn the Kayaking BSA award, this is almost a gimme. If you’re going to either one of the badges, combine it with the other. A little extra and you’ll earn both (and the award).

Nuclear Science

Very Hard to get Post-911.  Best best is workshop at Texas A&M or the Capital Area Council Hornaday Weekend []


Description: A tech-focused merit badge for the 21st Century.  You have to write code in three different programming languages!

Scouting Heritage:
Though not earned by original badge analyzers, placed as level 4 due to three requirements:
 - Attend either a BSA national jamboree, OR world Scout jamboree, OR a national BSA high-adventure base.
- Interview at least three people (different from those you interviewed for requirement 5) over the age of 40 who were Scouts.
- Reproduce the equipment for an old-time Scouting game


Badge in an of itself is not difficult, but need to find a mentor who really knows what they are doing.


Wilderness Survival

 Every single Scout should prepare for and earn this one. Should be one of the Eagle-requireds.

 Level 5 – For the Die-Hard!

American Business

Another one requiring a business, and no, you can’t use the same three months for different badges. Lots of visits and reports. Good if you have a high school business course, though.

Scuba Diving

Most difficult badge of them all for anyone 15 and older. Requires NAUI or PADI adult certification. Expensive and a lot of work. Really good skill to have, though. If you do this before you turn 15, you can earn a *much* easier and less expensive Jr. Certification.



A lot of requirements, a lot of work, reports, plus you need to be able to find a dig to volunteer at.   Might try UTA


Snow Sports

If you don’t already ski or snowboard, the level of proficiency might take a little while.  Also, we are in Texas - so plan trips to New Mexico or Colorado.


First of all - need to have a trumpet or bugle.  Secondly, takes a lot of practice and not everyone can actually play this instrument.


Good one to do at the same time as the Kayaking BSA award. Difficult because you have to have CPR card [from First Aid badge OR Rowing badge ] and the Canoeing badge (or Kayak BSA) to even start it.  Also need access to whitewater rapids, at least class II.  Tag team this one with Kayaking  badge

Rank of Eagle Requirements

  1. Earn a total of 21 merit badges, including the following 13 required or core merit badges:
    1. First Aid
    2. Citizenship in the Community
    3. Citizenship in the Nation
    4. Citizenship in the World
    5. Communication
    6. Cooking  
    7. Personal Fitness
    8. Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
    9. Environmental Science OR Sustainability  
    10. Personal Management
    11. Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
    12. Camping
    13. Family Life

Easier Eagle Required: Level 35 badges -  Good ones to start with.  One other good one is swimming, just because many other BSA activities tie back to those skills.

Personal Fitness


 Revised and required for Eagle starting in 2014.

Personal Management

Family Life

Physical Merit Badge Options:   Pick one of these 3






Level 3 Has CPR requirement

Emergency Rescue Options:  Pick one of these 2

Emergency Preparedness


Some say easier than Life Saving, unless a good swimmer. Earn  First Aid Merit Badge first.

Lifesaving –

Level 3

Not too hard if you’re a good swimmer and have your Swimming badge FIRST

Environment / Conservation Options:  Pick one of these 2

Environmental Science



Pretty straight forward regarding water, energy, food and other resource usage with respect to person, family and community.  A lot of little steps. Alternate to Environmental Science for Eagle.

Harder Eagle Required:  Level 4  – 5 badges

Citizenship in the World

Citizenship in the Community

First Aid

Taking a CPR course and a First Aid course will get most of the requirements marked off.
Two good online CPR options:
National CPR Foundation
Citizenship in the Nation


The National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) provides a number of online resources to assist Scouts in earning the Eagle rank — including an electronic version of the Eagle Scout Rank Application and the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook — via their Web site at

The latest copy of the Eagle Scout Project Workbook is here:

New Merit Badges on the Horizon

Newest Merit Badges Coming Soon:
Computer Aided Design

Estimated release: TBD

Description: Teaching boys to use computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design.

Newest Merit Badges Released since the 2010 Jamboree:

As posted on the News tab, there are some new merit badges plus an updated and required Cooking badge.  



Signs, Signals and Codes


Digital Technology [replaced Computers]

Mining in Society


Game Design

Cycling [revised - added the Mountain Biking Option]





Search and Rescue








Scouting Heritage

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