The BSA defines Advancement as “the process by which youth members of the Boy Scouts of America progress from rank to rank and is the method by which we promote and encourage the ongoing involvement and commitment that keeps members coming back for more.”
Practically speaking, the BSA ranks are designed to recognize Scouts as they achieve greater levels of skills in Scoutcraft (camping, cooking, tools, navigation, first aid, safety, citizenship, and leadership) through “Rank Advancement” and through subject-specific Merit Badges. Advancement is designed to provide a continuous set of new challenges for Scouts, to build a foundation of key life skills, and also to provide opportunities for Scouts to be recognized for their achievements in areas of personal interest.
Although often treated as such, Advancement is not designed to be an destination, but rather a journey through which Scouts achieve personal growth. While many Scouts are motivated by earning badges and ranks, a core tenet of the Advancement program is that Scouts learn from trying new activities, working with different merit badge counselors, exploring potential career interests, and generally stretching beyond their comfort zones.
There are seven ranks in Scouting: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. After joining the troop, you may begin working on your ranks to advance towards Eagle Scout. However, there is no obligation to pursue rank advancement, and you may choose to stop focusing on rank advancement at any time if warranted by your schedule and interests.
Scout to First Class
If you are a new Scout and are not sure if you have any interest in advancement, you are encouraged to work through at least the first four (through First Class) as many of the requirements for these are great life skills and can be accomplished just by participating in regular troop activities. Moreover, once you’ve completed First Class, and maybe even a merit badge or two, you may decide that you are interested in pursuing Eagle Scout after all – achieving First Class is a great first step on the path to Eagle.
You can work on the requirements for these first four ranks simultaneously, although you must earn them in order. That is, you have to complete Scout before you can earn Tenderfoot; however, if it so works out that you complete Tenderfoot requirements before you complete Scout, you can earn them both on the same day by completing Scout and then immediately finishing Tenderfoot.
Most of the Scouts in Troop 28 become First Class Scouts within 12-18 months of joining the troop. You’ll find that you can complete most of the requirements by attending troop meetings regularly, participating in the troop’s monthly outings, and joining us for our week-long summer camp at Camp Ma-ka-ja-wan. Most of the requirements can also be completed on your own and reviewed by an older Scout or adult leader; however, a few are more difficult to complete on your own. If you are unable to attend most campouts or Ma-ka-ja-wan, to ensure you are able to complete these requirements on a timeline with which you are comfortable, make sure to check out our rank advancement tips for “difficult” requirements, worksheets, or tips to combine requirements to make things as easy as possible.
As you earn each of these ranks, you’ll find yourself developing terrific outdoor skills, self-reliance, physical fitness and community service.
Star and Life
Scouts working on their Star and Life Ranks will sharpen the skills learned previously and additionally develop new skills through leadership and Merit Badges. While Scouts may begin earning Merit Badges any time after joining the troop, Scouts wishing to advance to Star or Life must complete several Merit Badges, including some of the Eagle-required Merit Badges (see below for more information on Merit Badges).
While working on Star and Life Ranks, Scouts are expected to hold positions of leadership within the troop. These positions include roles that help keep the troop smoothly functioning (like Quartermaster, Scribe, Librarian, Historian, and Webmaster) as well as positions where they are expected to help lead their peers and/or younger Scouts (e.g., Troop Guide, Instructor, Patrol Leader, and Senior Patrol Leader).
Once a Scout has achieved Life rank, they are only one step away from Eagle Scout. To achieve Eagle, a Scout must earn still more Merit Badges and continue to hold a leadership position within the troop, but they must also lead a significant service project. Troop 28 has been the home of many Eagle Scouts over the years and will provide resources to support a Scout’s path to Eagle.
To earn a Merit Badge, a Scout must demonstrate mastery of a set of subject-specific skills and knowledge as proscribed by the BSA. There are over 135 Merit Badges for a Scout to choose from and many can be earned in regular troop meetings or outings, at Ma-ka-ja-wan summer camp, or through local merit badge fairs and workshops.
Even though there are over 130 badges to choose from, a Scout only needs six to become a Star Scout, five more to become a Life Scout, and another ten—that is, at least 21 altogether—to become an Eagle Scout. If a Scout has earned more than 21 Merit Badges, they may earn additional Eagle Palm honors. Among the 21 merit badges an Eagle Scout must earn, 13 of them must come from a list of 21 “Eagle-required” badges that continue a Scout’s development in key areas of Scoutcraft. These are:
- Citizenship in the Community, Nation, AND World
- Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
- Environmental Science
- Family Life
- First Aid
- Personal Fitness
- Personal Management
- Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling