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BSA Methods – Advancement

Advancement is one of the “Methods of Scouting” used in Scouts BSA.  I was the Advancement Chair for our troop a few year ago, so I am always interested in other Scouters’ thoughts on advancement.

Youth Who Aren’t Interested

We always seemed to have a couple of youth in the troop who weren’t interested in advancement at all. It would have been nice to see them advancing, but I didn’t push them. If they didn’t have the desire to advance then there’s really nothing I could do anyway.  So I just let them know that I would be ready to support and encourage them if they change their minds and decide they want to be an Eagle Scout. I have seen it happen. A Scout will suddenly “turn it on” in that last year and achieve that goal.

Youth Who Won’t Take Initiative

A different situation is when a parent approaches a leader and wants to know why Timmy isn’t advancing like the other Scouts. Sometimes you have to explain that just showing up isn’t enough. Timmy needs to pay attention to the youth leaders when they are teaching skills and participate in what is going on. And he’ll need to do some of the requirements on his own.  He needs to talk to the youth leaders and ask for help if he needs it.

If Timmy has a question about what he needs to do, then by all means help him open up the troop advancement records and show him. And be willing to recommend a merit badge counselor. But Timmy has to take the next step.

We’re Not in Cub Scouts Anymore

A lot of parents and Scouts are used to Cub Scouts where a group all advances together and the adult leaders work really hard to make sure they get their requirements completed. And we see some Den Leaders give rank badges to Cub Scouts whether they did the requirements or not. So it is a real shock to the system when some Scouts get into the Scouts BSA program and realize they are really going to have to be motivated and put some effort forth if they want to advance.

Advancement and Scouts BSA

The methods of Scouting are the ways that Scouting’s aims of developing character, citizenship, and fitness in youth are achieved. One of the methods is “advancement”.

Advancement provides a way for Scouts BSA to be recognized for their achievements and personal growth. As they advance they develop leadership skills and acquire knowledge. They have the opportunity to exercise the Scout Oath and Law in their lives.

How is advancement encouraged in a Scouts BSA Troop. Here are a few ideas:

  • Communicate to the youth leadership the ways that advancement can be incorporated into meetings and activities – for example, taking a hike on an outing so the younger scouts can fulfill some of their early rank requirements
  • Having an advancement chair who works with the youth leadership and encourages advancement
  • Talking to Scouts about their interests and suggesting merit badges based on those interests
  • Communicating opportunities to participate in merit badge orientations or workshops

The Guide to Advancement

The Guide to Advancement is the authoritative document for all BSA advancement. If you have a question, it is a good starting point. See the guide.

Do you have a comment about advancement? Add it to the bottom of this post. Do you have a question. Ask a Scouting question here or in the Scout Moms, Dads, and Leaders Facebook group.

More Resources

Scout Rank Helps and Ideas

Scout Rank

Scout Rank is the first rank earned by a young man or woman upon joining a Scouts BSA troop. The Scout rank requirements help a new Scout learn the basics of Scouting and get them off on a good start on the path to Eagle Scout.

Tenderfoot Rank Helps and Ideas

Tenderfoot Rank

Tenderfoot is the rank a Scout can earn after Scout. The requirements for Tenderfoot introduce the youth to the skills he or she needs to get started in Scouts BSA.

Second Class Rank Helps and Ideas

Second Class Rank

Second Class is the rank a Scout can earn after Tenderfoot. The requirements for Second Class continue to teach the youth to the skills needed to advance in Scouts BSA.

First Class Rank Helps and Ideas

First Class Rank

First Class is the rank a Scout can earn after Second Class The requirements for First Class continue to teach the youth to the skills needed to advance in Scouts BSA.

Star Rank Helps and Ideas

Star Rank

Star is the Scouts BSA rank earned after First Class. With Star, the focus shifts from scout skills to leadership, service, and merit badges.

Life Rank Helps and Ideas

Life Rank

Life is the rank a Scout can earn after Star. A Scout working on Life continues to develop leadership, participates in service projects, and earns merit badges.

Eagle Scout Rank Helps and Ideas

Eagle Scout

Eagle Scout is the highest advancement rank in Scouts BSA. Eagle is earned after the rank of Life. ”Once an Eagle, always an Eagle”. A young woman or man who finishes his or her Scouting career at 18 years of age as a Life Scout will say “I WAS a Life Scout.” But a young woman or man who attains the rank of Eagle Scout can proudly declare “I AM an Eagle Scout” even after he or she reaches the age of 18.

Merit Badges

Scouts BSA Merit Badges

You can learn about sports, crafts, science, trades, business, and future careers as you earn merit badges. There are more than 135 merit badges. Any Scout may earn any merit badge at any time. You don’t need to have had rank advancement to be eligible.

Eagle Palms

Eagle palms represent additional recognition for an Eagle Scout who has stayed active in his or her unit. In order to receive this recognition, he or she must also continue to earn merit badges.

Scout Not Advancing

A Scout mom asks what to do when her son is participating in Scouting and enjoys the activities, but does not seem interested in rank advancement.

Assistant Patrol Leader and Rank Advancement

If you look at the list of positions which can be used to meet the position of responsibility requirement for Star and Life, you will see that assistant patrol leader is not listed there.

Help! My Son Doesn’t Want to Be a Scout

A reader’s son doesn’t want to continue in Scouts BSA: “I have tried to make it sounds really cool, he’s got friends moving up and friends in a troop now but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I can’t force him so am I doomed to this disappointment?

Quotes and Social Media Graphics

setting and acheiving
The difference between setting a goal and achieving it is in having a good plan and working it.


2 responses to “BSA Methods – Advancement”

  1. Fran Avatar

    I currently have a scout who transferred to our troop on paper, but has not shown up for any meeting in the last 6 months. I took his Eagle paperwork to the Council, thinking that he would at least come to regular meetings every week, at least to make it look good… Nada. We have not seen him. I heard through our scoutmaster that he had done his Eagle Project with 2 other scouts who happen to be buddies of his, but they have not come to meetings either. I know that, when push comes to shove, I will be pressured to sign his Eagle paperwork, but I will not do so… I think it is a travesty that a boy who has not done the minimum requirement by participating and showing leadership in the day to day affairs of the troop be allowed to proceed to Eagle because it looks good on his resume…

  2. Mary Avatar

    I am also the Advancement Chair for our Troop. As you said, when the adults feel that some of the younger scouts are close to advancing in rank, we’ll have a meeting where the older scouts work directly with the younger ones and review their books with them to show them how to keep track of this themselves. When the older scouts feel that the skills have been learned, they send the younger scouts to the adult leaders to close the loop.

    About a month ahead of a Court of Honor, I will also email a copy of the Scout’s Individual History Report out of TroopMaster to each Scout and his parents. This is to let them know what merit badges they have completed, and which are partially complete, hopefully to urge them to finish the incomplete merit badge requirements so they can get these badges at the Court of Honor as well. That way the parents know exactly what is going on with their Scout on a regular basis.

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