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Advancement and recognition in the Boy Scouts of America

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Advancement and recognition in the Boy Scouts of America is a tradition dating from the inception of the Scouting movement. A fundamental purpose of advancement is the self-confidence a young man or woman acquires from his participation in Scouting. Advancement is one of the methods used in the "Aims of Scouting"– character development, citizenship training and personal fitness.

There are separate advancement and recognition programs for the three main program divisions: Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing. Each program is designed for its age group and goals.

Cub Scouting

Youth advancement

Cub Scout advancement
50px Arrow of Light
30px 25px Webelos
30px Bear
30px Wolf
30px Tiger
30px Bobcat

Advancement is one of the methods used to achieve the aims of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Everything a Cub Scout does in the advancement program is intended to achieve these aims and aid in personal growth. The program has two tiers of advancement: the classic rank system and the newer Academics and Sports Program.

First grade boys may join the Tiger Cub program where they complete achievements[1] to earn the Tiger Cub badge, and complete electives[2] to receive Tiger Track Beads. Boys graduating from Tiger Cubs or joining at the second grade or above earn the Bobcat badge.[3] They then proceed to the next rank for their age. Second grade boys work toward the Wolf badge,[4] then toward Arrow Points.[5] Third grade Cub Scouts work toward the Bear badge[6] and then earn Arrow Points.[7]

The Webelos Scout program is a two year program for fourth- and fifth-grade boys. Both years work toward earning Activity Badges.[8] Webelos I dens (fourth-grade) work toward the Webelos Badge.[9] After earning the Webelos badge, boys work toward the Compass Point Emblem and Metal Compass Points. Webelos II dens (fifth-grade) work toward the Arrow of Light.[10]

The Arrow of Light award is the highest award available to Cub Scouts. In addition to the skill and activity requirements of the preceding ranks, the Arrow of Light requires Scouts to learn the Scout Promise and Scout Law, and visit one meeting and one activity of a Boy Scout troop, in preparation for advancing to the Boy Scouts. The Arrow of Light award is the only Cub Scout award[11] that can be worn on a Boy Scout uniform. Both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts wear the badge below the left pocket. Adults wear the square-knot version of the badge above the left pocket.

The Cub Scouts Academics and Sports Program[12] is designed toward the third aim of Scouting: the development of physical, mental and emotional fitness. It is an optional program for all Cub Scouts and is designed to assist in learning or improving skills. Belt loops are awarded for completing standards in various academic and sport fields. Advanced skills are recognized by pins, displayed on the Cub Scout Academic and Sports letter.

Several programs of religious awards are administered by various religious institutions and recognized, but not sponsored, by the BSA. These are generally recognized by a medal and an embroidered square knot.

Leader recognition

Cub Scout leaders who complete training, tenure, and performance requirements are recognized by a system of awards. The Cub Scouter Award is available to any leader, while the Tiger Cub Den Leader Award, Cub Scout Den Leader Award, Webelos Den Leader Award and the Cubmaster Award are available to those who have held the respective positions. These awards are recognized by a certificate and an embroidered square knot insignia.[13] Den Chiefs may earn the Den Chief Service Award or the Webelos Den Chief Service Award.[14]

Boy Scouting

Boy Scouts

BSA universal emblem.svg
Boy Scout advancement
20px Eagle Palms
20px Eagle
20px Life Scout
20px Star Scout
20px First Class
20px Second Class
20px Tenderfoot
20px Scout

The advancement program for Boy Scouts has two phases. The first phase of Scout to First Class is designed to teach the boy Scoutcraft skills, how to participate in a group and to learn self-reliance. Scout is the joining rank, and is awarded when the Scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals.[15] Tenderfoot,[16] Second Class[17] and First Class[18] have progressively harder requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.

Although Eagle is the highest rank and one all Scouts should strive for, the number of Scouts achieving First Class within one year of joining is still one of the key measures of unit effectiveness. Studies have shown that if a Scout achieves First Class within a year of joining, he typically stays in the Scout program for at least three years. Scouts who do so are more likely to retain Scout values as an adult and achieve the BSA primary mission of "producing useful citizens".

The second phase of Star,[19] Life[20] and Eagle is designed to develop leadership skills and allow the Scout to explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program. The Star and Life ranks require that the boy serve in a position of responsibility and perform community service.

The Eagle Scout rank likewise requires a position of responsibility, as well as a community service project planned and led entirely by the Eagle Scout candidate and the earning of a series of merit badges. After attaining the rank of Eagle, a Scout may earn Palms for additional tenure and merit badges.

Several programs of religious awards are administered by various religious institutions and recognized by the BSA. These are generally recognized by a medal and an embroidered square knot. Many other advancement and recognitions—such as the 50-miler award, Crime Prevention Awards, Emergency Preparedness Award and World Conservation Award —are available to Scouts who show performance in special areas.

Varsity Scouts

Youth advancement

Varsity Scout Advancement
20px Varsity Letter
20px Varsity Letter Bar
20px Denali Award
Activity Pins
20px Basketball
20px Bowling
20px Cycling
20px Discovering Adventure
20px Snow Camping
20px Survival
20px Whitewater Canoeing

Advancement is a key part of the Varsity program. Varsity Scouts can earn any award or recognition that is available to Boy Scouts, including merit badges, ranks advancements, and other awards. There are also several awards that are only available to Varsity Scouts, and sometimes their leaders.

The Varsity Letter may be earned by participating in or accomplishing at least one high adventure or sports program, according to guidelines determined by the Varsity Coach, meeting attendance requirements and showing Scout Spirit.

The Varsity Letter is cloth patch that can be worn either on the front bottom of a merit badge sash or on the right breast of the Varsity Scout or Boy Scout jacket. This award can be earned every three months by an actively participating Varsity Scout. Subsequent awards are represented by gold bars pinned on the letter. Activity pins can also be pinned on the Varsity Letter.

Varsity Scouts can also earn activity pins in several areas of high adventure and sports. Program resources and official pins are available for backpacking, basketball, bowling, canoe camping, caving, cross-country skiing, cycling, discovering America, fishing, freestyle biking, frontiersman, mechanics, Operation On-Target, orienteering, rock climbing and rappelling, roller hockey, shooting sports, snow camping, soccer, survival, swimming, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, waterskiing, and whitewater canoeing. The requirements for earning an activity pin are determined locally by the team captain and are usually awarded at the conclusion of each ultimate adventure or sports season.

The Denali Award is the highest award in Varsity Scouting. The award is named after Denali, also known as Mount McKinley in Alaska. Requirements include advancing at least one rank in the Boy Scout program (or earning a palm for those who are already Eagle Scouts), serving in a leadership position for six months, taking primary and supportive leadership roles for activities in all five areas of emphasis, living the Varsity Scout Pledge, and completing a progress review.

Adult recognition

Adult Varsity leaders may earn the Varsity Letter and activity pins. They meet the same requirements as the youth and must also complete Fast Start and Basic Leader Training (New Leader Essentials and Varsity Coach Leader Specific Training), attend six Varsity Roundtables, and complete a minimum of six months tenure.

Varsity Scout leaders who complete tenure, training and performance requirements may earn the Varsity Scout Leader Training Award. Varsity Coaches may earn the Varsity Coach's Key and the National President's Varsity Scout Coach Award of Merit.

Order of the Arrow

Order of the Arrow honors
Founder's Award
Distinguished Service Award

The Order of the Arrow (OA) is a program of the Boy Scout division of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). It is the BSA's national honor society for experienced campers, based on American Indian traditions, and dedicated to the ideal of cheerful service.


Youth advancement

Achievement Awards
Bronze Award
30px Arts and Hobbies
30px Outdoors
30px Religious Life
30px Sea Scout
30px Sports
20px Gold Award
20px 30pxSilver Award
20px Ranger Award
20px TRUST Award
20px Quest Award
20px Quartermaster Award
Shooting Sports Outstanding Achievement
Recognition Awards
Venturing Leadership Awards
40pxYoung American Award
There are also Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards in the Girl Scouts of the USA.

A Bronze Award[21] may be earned for each category of arts and hobbies, outdoor, religious life, sea scouting and sports. After earning at least one Bronze Award and meeting tenure, leadership, personal growth and other requirements the Venturer may earn the Gold Award.[22] To earn the Silver Award,[23] the Venturer must earn the Gold Award, earn first aid and CPR certifications, show leadership and participate in ethics training.

Venturers may also earn expert awards that build on some areas of the Bronze Awards. These include the Venturing Ranger Award [24] (Outdoors); the TRUST Award [25] (Religious Life); the Quest Award [26] (Sports); and the Sea Scouting Quartermaster Award [27] (Sea Scout).

In addition to these awards, there are others, such as the Venturing Shooting Sports Outstanding Achievement Award[28] and the Venturing World Conservation Award. Venturers may also earn other awards common to the Scouting program such as the William T. Hornaday Award. Venturers may also be recognized for their "excellent achievements and service to their community, state and nation" with the Young American Award. [29]

Male members under the age of 18 may also earn the Star, Life, and Eagle Scout ranks from the Boy Scouting program if they have earned at least First Class rank in a Boy Scout troop or Varsity Scout team.

Leader recognition

Venturing adult leaders who complete training, tenure, and performance requirements are recognized by a system of awards. The Venturing Leader's Training Award[30] is available to any leader, while the Venturing Advisor's Key[31] and Venturing Advisor Award of Merit[32] are only available to the Advisor.

Venturing Leadership Award

Both youth and adults are eligible for the Venturing Leadership Award.[33] There are three levels of these awards: council (for those at the crew, district, and/or council levels), region (for those at the area or region levels) and National. A limited number of these awards are presented on an annual basis to those involved in Venturing who have made exceptional contributions to Venturing at their particular level and who exemplify the Venturing Code.

Sea Scouting

Sea Scout advancement
Long Cruise Badge
Small Boat Handler
Qualified Seaman
SEAL Training Award

Religious awards

BSA Religious Emblems
Youth Religious Award Knot Youth Religious Knot
Adult Religious Award Knot Adult Religious Knot
  • Youth Religious Emblem
  • Adult Religious Award
  • Frank L Weil Memorial Quality Jewish Committee Award
  • Frank L Weil Memorial Unit Recognition Award

Honor awards

Honor Medal With Crossed Palms
A lifesaving award presented to a registered youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated both unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save a life at extreme risk to self; may be awarded posthumously.
Honor Medal
A lifesaving award presented to a registered youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism in saving or attempting to save a life at considerable risk to self.
Heroism Award
A lifesaving award presented to a registered youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism in saving or attempting to save a life at minimum risk to self.
Medal of Merit
National Certificate of Merit
This award may be presented by the National Court of Honor to a registered BSA member, youth or adult, who has performed a significant act of service that is deserving of special national recognition. Such action need not involve attempts of rescue or risk to self, but puts into practice Scouting skills or ideals.
Local Council Certificate of Merit
This may be awarded for meritorious actions.

Leadership and training awards

  • Scouter's Training Award
  • Scouter's Key
  • Tiger Cub Den Leader Award
  • Den Leader Award
  • Webelos Den Leader Award
  • Cubmaster Award
  • Cub Scouter Award
  • Venturing Leadership Award
  • Distinguished Commissioner Service Award
  • Scoutmaster Award of Merit
  • Varsity Team Coach Award of Merit
  • Venturing Advisor Award of Merit
  • Powderhorn
  • Sea Badge
  • Wood Badge
  • Professional Scouter Training Award
  • Den Chief Service Award

Distinguished service awards

Service awards

  • District Award of Merit: A recognition for Scouters who give noteworthy service to youth at the district level.
  • International Scouter Award
  • William H. Spurgeon III Award
  • William T. Hornaday Award: presented for distinguished service in conservation.
  • Community Organization Award:
    • Herbert G. Horton Alpha Phi Omega Service to Youth Award
    • Scouting Square Knot Award, American Legion
    • Marvin M. Lewis Award, Elks
    • Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award
    • Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal
    • Scouter's Achievement Award, VFW
    • Cliff Dochterman Award, Rotary
  • George Meany Award

National service awards

The Spirit of Scouting Award

Designed for presentation to a noteworthy individual who has performed exceptional and unusual service to young people in hard-to-reach communities over a long period of time.

Whitney M Young Jr. Service Award

Recognizes outstanding services by an adult individual or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for youth from rural or low-income urban backgrounds.

¡Scouting ... Vale la pena! Service Award

Recognizes outstanding services by an adult individual or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for Hispanic American/Latino youth.

Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award

Recognizes outstanding services by an adult individual or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for Asian American youth.

ScoutReach National President's Award
Dr. Frank "Tick" Coleman Service Award

Support of Scouting awards

  • James E West Fellowship Award
  • William D Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award


Unit awards

  • E. Urner Goodman Camping Award
  • Quality Unit Award
  • National Summertime Pack Award


  • E. Urner Goodman Scholarship Fund
  • National Jewish Committee on Scouting: Eagle Scout Scholarship Programs [1]
  • AFL-CIO Wood Badge Scholarship Program
  • VFW Wood Badge Scholarship Program
  • William M Minto Memorial Scholarship For Sea Scouts [2]
  • Sons of the American Revolution: Arthur M. & Berdena King Eagle Scout Scholarship [3]
  • Elks National Foundation: Eagle Scout Awards [4]

Special opportunities

  • Woods Services Award
  • Torch of Gold certificate
  • Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award
  • 50-Miler Award
  • BSA Lifeguard
  • Boardsailing BSA
  • Crime Prevention Awards
  • Den Chief Service Award
  • Donor Awareness Patch
  • Emergency Preparedness Award
  • Firem'n Chit
  • Historic Trails Award
  • International Activity Badge
  • Interpreter's Strips
  • Kayaking, BSA
  • Leave No Trace Awareness Award
  • Mile Swim, BSA
  • Paul Bunyan Woodsman
  • Physical Fitness Award
  • Recruiter Strip
  • Scuba, BSA
  • Snorkeling, BSA
  • Totin' Chip
  • Whittling Chip
  • World Conservation Award
  • Young American

Awards from other organizations

  • Alpha Phi Omega offers the Scouting Recognition Certificate and the Herbert G. Horton Alpha Phi Omega Service to Youth Award.
  • The American Legion offers the Eagle Scout of the Year and the Scouting Square Knot Award.
  • The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks offers the Marvin M. Lewis Award.
  • The Freemasons of North America offer the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award.
  • The United States Department of Defense offers the Youth Certificate of Recognition and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
  • The Veterans of Foreign Wars offer the Scouter's Achievement Award.


  1. "Cub Scout Tiger Cub Rank". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/Tiger.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  2. "Cub Scout Tiger Cub Electives". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/tiger_electives.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  3. "Cub Scout Bobcat Rank". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/bobcat.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  4. "Wolf Badge Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/wolf.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  5. "Wolf Electives". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/wolfarrow.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  6. "Bear Badge Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/bear.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  7. "Bear Electives". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/beararrow.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  8. "Webelos Scout Activity Badges". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/webbadges.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  9. "Webelos Badge Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/webelos.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  10. "Arrow of Light Badge Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/arrowoflight.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  11. While any religious emblem may be earned as a Cub Scout and worn as a Boy Scout, these are administered and awarded by religious institutions and are not considered BSA awards as such.
  12. "Cub Scout Academics and Sports Program". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/a-s.html. Retrieved 2006-03-27. 
  13. Medallions for most awards were discontinued in 2001
  14. "Cub Scout Leader Recognition Awards". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/cubscouts/resources/13-595/index.html. Retrieved 2006-02-06. 
  15. "Boy Scout Joining Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank1.html. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  16. "Tenderfoot Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank2.html. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  17. "Second Class Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank3.html. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  18. "First Class Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank4.html. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  19. "Star Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank5.html. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  20. "Life Rank Requirement". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank6.html. Retrieved 2006-03-23. 
  21. "Venturing Bronze Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/bronze.html. Retrieved March 15. 
  22. "Venturing Gold Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/gold.html. Retrieved March 15. 
  23. "Venturing Silver Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/silver.html. Retrieved March 15. 
  24. "Venturing Ranger Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/ranger.html. Retrieved April 20. 
  25. "Venturing Trust Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/trust.html. Retrieved April 20. 
  26. "Venturing Quest Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/quest.html. Retrieved April 20. 
  27. "Sea Scouting Quartermaster Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/quarter.html. Retrieved April 20. 
  28. "Shooting Sports Outstanding Achievement Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/venturing/awards/shooting.html. Retrieved March 30. 
  29. "Young American Award". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/awards/youngamerican/index.html. Retrieved March 30.