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Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.


First a boy must complete the Boy Scout joining requirements and then he will receive a "Scout" patch.  Then there are six "ranks" in Scouting: Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle.  Learn more about the rank requirements in the Scout advancement section.

The first three are the "learning ranks", also called the "Trail to First Class".  They focus primarily on basic scouting skills such as camping, cooking, knots and lashings, nature, and first aid.  Troop 33 has a first year program that focuses on all of the necessary training required to achieve First Class within the first year IF a Scout is active in the program.

The second three ranks are called the "Trail to Eagle". They focus primarily on merit badges, service projects, and leadership.  Leadership is learned through positions of responsibility and ultimately through the Eagle Scout Service Project.

Rank Progression

Rank advancement is a way to achieve the goals.  Rank advancement is not the goal itself.  It may seem that younger may be better, but you must consider:
  • Maturity 
    • Eagle Project is about management and leadership 
    • Plan, be responsible, delegate, and make decisions
    • For most Scouts this seems to be between 15-17 
  • Readiness 
    • Best when Scout decides they are ready, means more 
    • For most, this is between 15-17, for some 17th year

Suggested Timeframe

Here is a table showing a suggested timeframe for rank advancement:

Rank Grade Age  Leadership Service
Tenderfoot 5th 10/11
Second Class    Start 6th 10/11 Community Projects
Eagle Projects
First Class 6th, Start 7th       11/12
Star End 7th 12/13 Den Chief Community Projects
Eagle Projects
Life 8th 13/14 Troop Guide
Appointed Position   
Community Projects
Eagle Projects
9th 14/15 Elected Position
Senior Patrol
Friend’s Eagle Project   
Eagle 10th, 11th 15-17    Senior Patrol
Own Eagle Project

NOTE: Leadership positions listed are not the only ones allowed for a given rank, merely a suggested progression to allow for more responsibility at higher ranks.

Trail to Eagle Requirements

The table below shows a summary of the main four requirements (merit badges, service, leadership, and participation) for Star, Life, and Eagle:

Rank Requirement Notes
Star Merit Badges
6 (4 Eagle required)
6 hours
4 months
4 months active
Life Merit Badges
5 more (3 Eagle required)
6 hours
6 months
Teach younger scout
6 months active
Eagle Merit Badges
10 more (12 Eagle + 9 Elective) *
Eagle Project - Plan & Lead
6 months
6 months active

* Effective January 2, 2014 this becomes 21 total (13 Eagle-required + 8 elective)

Merit Badges

Merit Badges allow Scouts to learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. There are more than 100 merit badges. Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time. You don't need to have had rank advancement to be eligible. Many badges offer the Scout the opportunity to learn about a subject that might just turn out to be a career someday.

To reach Eagle Scout one must earn a total of 21 merit badges, 12 of which must be from the "Eagle-required" list*.  The Eagle-required merit badges have been carefully selected to teach Scouts a wide range of life skills and outdoor skills.  

Here is a list of the Eagle-required merit badges along with some notes:

Merit Badge Difficulty Notes
Camping Med 20 nights camping, choose 2 experiences
Cit. Community Low Best at a Rally/Midway
Cit. Nation High Take after 8th grade (need US History)
Cit. World Med Best at a Rally/Midway
Communications Med 5 minute public speech required
Cooking Med Required as of Jan 1, 2014 but you can earn it now!
Emerg. Prep OR  Lifesaving Med First Aid is a pre-requisite
Envi. Science OR Sustainability Med Summer Camp, "stare at a patch of dirt", requires discipline
Family Life Low Great first choice!
First Aid High Must have all First Class first aid skills
Personal Fitness Med 12-week fitness plan, must show improvement
Personal Management High 13-week budget tracking requirement
Swimming OR Cycling OR Hiking High Clothing jump / 50-mile ride / 20-mile hike

NOTE: Do not just rush to knock off Eagle-required merit badges.  A 12 year-old Scout will not be mature enough to benefit from Personal Management, for example.

* Effective January 2, 2014 this becomes 21 total (13 Eagle-required + 8 elective)


Initially you will earn service hours by working on projects at summer camp or by participating in one of the quarterly service projects coordinated by the troop.  A Scout's service will culminate by managing his own project.  Eagle Scout Service Projects are typically ~150-250 hours.  The goal is to get the Scout to think beyond himself.

There are many opportunities: community organizations, churches, schools, summer camp, and older Scout's Eagle Projects.  Service hours are easy to find if you are active.

Positions of Responsibility

Positions of Responsibility (PoR) are only required for Star, Life, and Eagle.  To earn credit a Scout must serve actively in the role.  These positions are meant to teach a Scout responsibility and as such there are expectations established for each position.

It is important to build experience along the way:
  1. Scouts start by leading younger scouts
    • Den Chief is an excellent first position (recommend 1-2 year separation)
  2. They can move into a position where they are:
  3. Then move onto leading larger groups
    • Responsible for leading other positions or across patrols (ASPL)
    • Responsible for leading the Troop (SPL)
  4. Then work up to managing their own project (Eagle Scout Service Project)

Board of Review

After a Scout has completed the requirements for any rank or Eagle Palm, he appears before a board of review. Its purpose is to determine the quality of his experience, decide whether he is qualified to advance and, if so, encourage him to continue the quest for Eagle or the next Palm.

A board of review consists of three adults from the Troop Committee (but not uniformed leaders).  Parents may not serve on a board for their own son.  Scouts should wear their full "Class A" uniform and Be Prepared to recite the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout Motto, and Scout Slogan.  They will be asked about their experiences in Scouting and in the Troop.

A board of review is NOT a retest or "examination," nor a challenge of his knowledge. In most cases it should, instead, be a celebration of accomplishment. A Scout may be asked where he learned his skills and who taught him, and what he gained from fulfilling selected requirements. The answers will reveal what he did for his rank. It can be determined, then, if this was what he was supposed to do. Discussion of how he has lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law in his home, unit, school, and community should be included.

A board of review will last anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on the rank, interest level, and the board members.  Once finished the board members will ask the Scout to step out of the room while they discuss his answers.  If the board members agree a Scout is ready to advance, he is called in and congratulated. The board of review date (not that of a subsequent court of honor) becomes the rank's effective date.

In the rare case that a board decides not to approve, the candidate must be so informed and told what he can do to improve. The review board should discuss their decision with the Scout's Patrol Advisor.  Most Scouts accept responsibility for their behavior or for not completing requirements properly

Parent's Role

Here are some suggestions based on our experience:
  • Talk to your Scout about his goals.
  • Encourage active participation 
    • Get your Scout to meetings 
    • Encourage your Scout to go on outings
    • Help your Scout plan their calendar
  • Volunteer in the Troop
    • Go on outings (but give your Scout space...)
    • Set the example by being active
  • Encourage independence, but stay involved