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 Advancement Changes

Boy Scout
Requirements Changes

Effective January 1, 2018

The Guide to Advancement - 2017 and 2018 Boy Scout Requirements are the official Boy Scouts of America sources on Boy Scout advancement procedures.

When there is a conflict between two published lists of requirements, such as Boy Scout Requirements (BSA Publication No. 33216) and a Merit Badge pamphlet or the Boy Scout Handbook, the requirements book should normally be considered to be the controlling document, until a newer edition of Boy Scout Requirements is issued. However, the following excerpt from the Guide to Advancement, 2017 explains what to do when merit badge requirements change: What to Do When Requirements Change 

The current annual edition of Boy Scout Requirements lists the official merit badge requirements. Once new or revised merit badge requirements appear in this publication, which is released each January, any Scout just beginning work on a merit badge must use the requirements as stated there. 

If changes to merit badge requirements are introduced in a revised merit badge pamphlet after the January release of the Boy Scout Requirementsbook, then the Scout has until the following January 1 to decide what to do. He may continue—or begin work—using the old merit badge requirements and the old pamphlet; or he may switch to—or begin work—using the new requirements and the new pamphlet. Unless it is otherwise stated in the merit badge pamphlet, Boy Scout Requirements, or official communications from the National Council, if a Scout chooses to use the old merit badge requirements and pamphlet, he may continue using them until he has completed the badge. 

There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge, although a counselor may determine so much time has passed since any effort took place that the new requirements must be used.

In addition, the following information is included on the inside front cover of the 2018 edition of Boy Scout Requirements:

The requirements listed in this Boy Scout Requirements book for rank advancement, Eagle Palms, and merit badges are the official requirements of the Boy Scouts of America and are effective Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018. However, the requirements on the following pages might not match those in the Boy Scout Handbook and the merit badge pamphlets, because this publication is updated only on an annual basis. The most current and any updated merit badge requirements can be found at

When new or revised merit badge requirements appear in this Boy Scout Requirements book, any Scout beginning work on a merit badge must use the requirements as stated therein. However, if changes to merit badge requirements are introduced in a revised merit badge pamphlet or at throughout the year, then the Scout has through the end of the current calendar year to decide which set of requirements to use. 

Once a Scout begins work, he may continue using the requirements he started with until completion of the badge. Alternatively, he may choose to switch to the revised requirements. Sometimes, however—especially for more significant changes—the Boy Scout Handbook, the Boy Scout Requirements book,, or official communications from the National Council may set forth a different procedure that must be used. The National Council may establish a new date for when use of the existing requirements must cease.

There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge, although a counselor may determine so much time has passed since any effort took place that the new requirements must be used.

No council, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or to subtract from, any advancement or merit badge requirements. For more detailed information, see the Guide to Advancement, which is available online at

During 2015, after multi-year period of review, BSA proposed changes, to the requirements for the Scout badge, which is now officially designated a "rank", as well as to the requirements for all of the ranks from Tenderfoot to Eagle, and for Eagle Palms. These changes, in draft form, were announced during 2015 and changes to some of the draft requirements were made at various times during the year. A new edition of the Boy Scout Handbook was issued in January, 2016 and a new edition of Boy Scout Requirements was issued in February, 2016, containing the final, approved, requirements. During 2016, which served as a transition period, Scouts could advance to the next rank using the previous requirements, Since January 1, 2017, however, all Scouts must use the current requirements for advancement.

Information in the 2018 Boy Scout Requirements book

The list of changes on the inside front cover of the new edition of Boy Scout Requirements identifies changes to the requirements for two ranks (Second Class and First Class), which became effective on August 1, 2017, along with changes to 27 merit badges, the deletion of one "Special Opportunity" (the Denali Award) which was available only to Varsity Scouts, and the addition of one new "Special Opportunity".

In addition to the listed changes, we have identified a series of other changes, as follows:

  1. As a consequence of the announced ending of the Varsity Scout program,  some changes were made to the requirements and notes for each Boy Scout rank and Eagle Palms, and for some of the "Special Opportunities".
  2. Due to the announced separation of Sea Scouting from Venturing, changes were made to the lists of positions in requirement 5 for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks in 2017, but were not noted at that time.
  3. After BSA announced some changes to the requirements for Eagle Palms which became effective on August 1, 2017, they made some minor wording changes in October, and again in the 2018 Boy Scout Requirements book. 
  4. Two other merit badges and some other "Special Opportunities" also have had changes. 
  5. Information on the Complete Angler recognition which became available in 2014, and on the Whitewater Rafting BSA award, which was made available starting with the 2017 National Jamboree, has been included for the first time. 

While not identified in the list of changes on the inside front cover (IFC), each of these other changes appears in the text of the 2018 edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book, and is shown in this document. 

The "Merit Badge Library" listing on the inside back cover, which lists all merit badge pamphlets with their most recent publication dates does not list any new pamphlet dates since the 2017 edition. Click here for our list of all of the merit badge pamphlets, which identifies the most recent edition of each, whether the old pamphlet can still be used, and when the requirements were last revised. Our list also identifies which merit badge pamphlets have been announced as being available as Kindle books, through, and/or as Digital Interactive merit badge pamphlets through However, although the Kindle versions are still available, the digital interactive versions are currently (as of January 2018) not available, while they are undergoing some production platform changes.

We have also included in this report a list of 8 merit badges where the wording of the requirements in the Boy Scout Requirements book differs from the wording in the current merit badge pamphlets.

Although BSA has previously announced plans to release a few more new merit badges in the coming years, including Multi-Media, Computer Aided Design, and Advanced Computing, no current schedule has been announced as to if or when those badges may be available.

Index of Changes

* Ranks, badges, and awards that were not included in the listing 
on the inside front cover of the 2018 edition of Boy Scout Requirements.


Scout *
Tenderfoot *
Second Class
First Class
Star *
Life *
Eagle *
Eagle Palms *

REVISED Merit Badges

Animal Science
Coin Collecting
Crime Prevention
Emergency Preparedness 
First Aid

Gardening *
Insect Study
Personal Fitness
Plant Science
Public Health 
Reptile and Amphibian Study *
Scouting Heritage
Soil and Water Conservation *
Wilderness Survival

Merit Badges with differences between the current merit badge pamphlet
and the 2018 Boy Scout Requirements book

Camping *
Fire Safety *
Fish and Wildlife Management *
Inventing *
Personal Fitness *
Small Boat Sailing *
Soil and Water Conservation *
Traffic Safety  *

Special Opportunities


Denali Award
Varsity Letters and Pins *


National Park Service Resource Stewardship Scout Ranger
Complete Angler *
Whitewater Rafting BSA *


National Outdoor Badges for
Camping, Aquatics, Conservation, Hiking, Riding, and Adventure *
National Medal for Outdoor Achievement *
Den Chief Service Award *
Outdoor Ethics Awareness Award *
Outdoor Ethics Action Award *
BSA Lifeguard **

** The requirements in the 2018 edition of Boy Scout Requirements do not match the requirements on the 2017 edition of the Application for BSA LIfeguard (430-033WB)

 Definition of Active

 A Scout will be considered "active" in his unit if he is

   1. Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)

   2. Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons

   3. Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.

   4. In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.

(Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)

If the Scout does not initiate communication, the unit leader is to contact the Scout and ask if the youth wishes to remain in Scouting. If the answer is negative, then the unit leader should no longer communicate with the Scout. If the answer is affirmative, the unit leader should provide the unit calendar. After six months of nonparticipation, the unit leader may cease to contact with the youth and drop the Scout from the unit at recharter time.

The Scout may return to the unit at any time while on the unit charter. At any time a Scout is dropped from a charter, the youth may re-apply to a unit for readmission; the acceptance of the application is at the discretion of the unit. The youth would be reinstated at the rank and level that can be documented by either the Scout or the unit.

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