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  • merit badge counselor

    How does to whole merit badge counselor thing work? I had thought the boys decided on a merit badge, then had to get a blue card and buddy, then track down a counselor, meet with counselor, get the work done, then meet with counselor again to get the card signed, then turn the blue card in to someone. Scout master guy of community troop told me last night that no counselor is needed for most badges. He said there were only a few badges that required a counselor. Is that right? I had been encouraged to become a merit badge counselor, but it seems there's no need because I don't do any of those badges that require a professional.

  • #2
    Every Merit Badge REQUIRES a district approved councilor to sign the completed Blue Card (Scout Record) and provide Merit Badge instruction on THAT Merit Badge .

    Run, do not walk from this SM.

    The SM councils the Scout before starting ANY badge and provides or suggest concilor contact info. The SM signs a portion of the card to acknowledge the Scouts is starting the badge (not granting permission).

    Some require special certification like Rifle (NRA Rifle Instructor).

    The SM is not automatically authorized to sign Merit Badge cards jut because he is a SM... there is a Merit Badge applicaton for adults who are vetted by the District Advancement chair.

    Merit Badge Councilors are a District responsibility, not a SM one.


    • IM_Kathy
      IM_Kathy commented
      Editing a comment
      just an FYI rifle and shotgun don't require the MBC to be NRA certified as long as they use a range that has the NRA certified there. I'm registered to council those and go with a scout and 1 of his parents to a near-by range. The range is great it's the one I go to a couple times a month (weather permitting)

      Though in saying this. All the boys I've worked with are ones that took the badge at camp but failed to qualify. And for our summer camp the shooting badges do fill up quick and prefer boys not re-take the full class. And while the camp range is open during free time they are often pushed through too fast to really try and get qualifying completed.

  • #3
    Sounds odd. Maybe he meant that he and members of the troop have counselors for every Eagle-required badge and lots of non-required ones. So, they don't muck about with a blue card system -- or registering their councilors with the BSA. Less paperwork for everyone involved.

    If I recall, my oldest brother's SM operated the same way. (This was back before blue-cards were in popular use.) Worked just fine until he achieved Life rank. Then SM moved away without a trace, and there was ZERO record of my brother's advancement, and no way form him to officially complete his Eagle requirements.

    My point is, there's no stopping an SM from doing things however he wants to do them, but there comes a point where what he does, although working fine for years, may wind up selling some boy short.

    That handbook you just got your boy -- it's his diary of scouting. As he earns an award, teach him to fill in the appropriate blank on the advancement section. Then, teach him to file away in a box or a binder the other paperwork that certifies he earned particular badges.

    Maybe you've heard that dogs love trucks? Well, boy scouts love paperwork!

    Regarding serving as a MBC to help some other boys in your district? Talk to the district commissioner.


    • Old_OX_Eagle83
      Old_OX_Eagle83 commented
      Editing a comment

      Keep in mind this is no longer Cub Scouts, the Troop will not work on rank advancement for your son, that is his responsibility. If you son, not you, is unsure of what to do he need to go to his Patrol Leader for guidance (if he's in a young scout patrol he may have a Troop Guide instead of a Patrol Leader).

      Those older boys are the troop leaders, it's good that they're there. Scoutmasters coach and mentor senior youth, they do not run the program.

      Also keep in mind all those outings are where you so leans, grows, and as a byproduct advances. The outdoors are the learning lab for Boy Scouts.

      Lots of older scouts, and an active outdoor program are signs of a healthy unit. There are some questions about advancement in the unit that need explored. Your contact is the New Parent Coordinator; if the unit doesn't have one speak with the Advancement Chair.

    • ScoutNut
      ScoutNut commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow - Just Wow.

      Find another Troop. This guy is doing his own program, not BSA's.

      As to a "database" of area Troops, you have access to one also.

      This is the BSA unit finder. Just go to "Boy Scouts", and plug in your zip code. It will give you a list of local Boy Scout Troops, as well as a map showing where most of the units in your greater area are.

    • christineka
      christineka commented
      Editing a comment
      There are only older scouts. My son would be 5 years younger than the next youngest scout. The first community troop I found had only 11 year olds and so I kept looking to find a troop with a range of ages of boys. This troop is the opposite with only older boys. Next week they're doing an activity that is only for 12 and up,so my son can't participate. I do think that an active program is important. I apologize if it sounded like I thought camping and working on merit badges was not appropriate. To the contrary. They just sorta left out the part about saying the pledge or wearing any semblance of a uniform, or having boys as leaders or anything of that scout-y type stuff. ("Pledge" was pulling the folded flag out of the bag, raising it in the air and proclaiming that part to have been completed.) The boys were really nice and helped my son with his cutting. They let him have the clamp because he wasn't allowed to use power tools, as they were.

  • #4
    There's all kinds of bad information in play here.

    From the Scout's prospective:
    1. The scout goes to his Scoutmaster with a request to work on a Merit Badge.
    2. The scoutmaster assign's the Scout a Counselor.
    3. The Scoutmaster issues the Scout a Blue Card
    4. The scout presents to the Counselor with the Blue Card
    5. Following all Youth Protection Rules of BSA, and the Scout's Charter Organization, the scout works with the appointed Counselor until completion, or either party can't continue.
    6. Retaining his portion of the Blue Card the Counselor returns the remaining two updated portions of the Blue Card to the Scout
    7. The Scout Returns to his Scoutmaster who will verify the Blue Card is completed correctly, and in doing so be put on notice that the scout is no longer working with the Counselor.
    8. Retaining his portion of the Blue Card the scout delivers the remaining portion of the Blue Card to the Troop Advancement Chair.

    There are two flavors of Merit Badge Counselors: 1. Council 2. Unit

    The Council Counselor is registered in this position with the Council, has completed Merit Badge Counselor Orientation & Youth Protection Training, and has been approved for the specific merit badges in question by the Council AC. (The Council AC often delegates these duties and responsibilities to his District AC's).

    The Unit Counselor still needs to be registered as a Merit Badge Counselor, but has specified he wants to work with one unit only. He must still have: completed Merit Badge Counselor Orientation & Youth Protection Training, and have been approved for the specific merit badges in question by the Troop AC.(The Council AC can revoke the registration of Unit Counselors, but only does so in extreme cases)

    The Scoutmaster has ultimate authority on assignment of Scouts to Merit Badge Counselors, and his decision can't be overridden. However, the SM does not approve MB work, just the Counselor, and that only at the point of assignment.

    A Unit Advancement Chair can remove a Unit MB Counselor, but not reject a completed Merit Badge after the fact, just as a Scoutmaster cannot.

    I hope this clarifies things.


    • ScoutNut
      ScoutNut commented
      Editing a comment
      A few corrections to the above -

      The Troop AC has no say at all in which merit badges a person can counsel. All merit badge counselors are registered thru, and approved by, their Council/District Advancement Committee. It is that committee that approves which specific merit badges the person can be a counselor for - even for those merit badge counselors that have decided to work with only one Troop.

      The SM does NOT have "ultimate authority on assignment of Scouts to Merit Badge Counselors". He CAN be "overridden". From the 2013 Guide To Advancement - Section -

      "Although it is the unit leader's responsibility to see that at least one merit badge counselor is identified from those approved and made available, the Scout may have one in mind with whom he would like to work. The unit leader and Scout should come to agreement as to who the counselor will be.Lacking agreement, THE SCOUT MUST BE ALLOWED TO WORK WITH THE COUNSELOR OF HIS CHOICE, so long as the counselor is registered and has been approved by the council advancement committee."

      A Unit Advancement Chair can NOT "remove a Unit MB Counselor". That can only be done by the Council/District Advancement Committee. A unit SM, and Advancement Chair, can discuss with a Scout which counselors are good/bad for a specific merit badge. They can even, in some specific cases, limit the number of badges a Scout can earn from a single MB counselor. However, a unit can not "remove" a counselor.

  • #5
    In case you need it in writing:

    I don't know what this "scoutmaster" is doing, but its not the Boy Scouts of America.


    • #6
      Here's the way it's supposed to work:

      1. Boy wants to work on meritbadge X.
      2. He asks Advancement chair for blue card.
      3. Then he asks Scoutmaster to sign blue card, and recommend a counselor.
      4. He contacts the counselor. This can be easy--if MBC for Badge x is at troop meeting, or at a merit badge university, etc.
      5. He meets with counselor (and at least one other person nearby for YPT). and begins work on requirements.
      6. Meets as needed until badge is done. Then counselor signs off and keeps his part of blue card, and the SM signs of, then the Advancement chair gets one part of blue card, the scout keeps the remaining part.
      7. Next Court of Honor, the scout receives badge and card.


      • #7
        As a Merit Badge Counselor I personally hate that Certain Troops have MBCs for Every Eagle and enough Easy other Merit Badges to get youths to Eagle, yet those Counselors only Work with their Troops..hate to say this but I am suspicious of their Ability and Willingness to actually teach a Subject.. As For the SM only allowing Scouts to work with a Counselor. I believe it should be the Youths Choice who they Earn the Merit Badge from not the Scoutmasters. I wish BSA would rule that Youths could not be Taught in House...No More Troop MBCs.


        • JoeBob
          JoeBob commented
          Editing a comment
          JP, we're on the opposite ends of this one.

          I won't sign off on many of the Merit Badge 'Clinics' or 'Fairs' for my scouts. These events are frequently fund-raisers and poorly run, with little interest in actually teaching the subject and meeting the requirements. (Some badges do lend themselves to clinics, so I have to judge each case separately.)

          Whereas I know the counselors in my troop, and they know the boys that they're working with. We all toe the line about meeting requirements, and can discuss individual boys' needs.

          You want the boys to approve their own counselors? It will be all clinics and 6 to 8 merit badges 'earned' a weekend.
          At least with my troop MBCs I know that they're learning.

        • perdidochas
          perdidochas commented
          Editing a comment
          Well, I see both sides of the issue, but honestly, without the troop only option, many wouldn't be MBCs at all. I also have seen MBCs at camp vs. at troop, and the troop MBCs are much more thorough. The SM has the choice, because he can more easily see the quality of MBCs than youths. Why are you against in-house? To me, it turns MBs into part of the troop process, rather than an add-on.

      • #8
        Some scouters get fed up with all of the "Byzantine bureaucracy." They get fed up of shelling out $ for pamphlets. I kind of agree. I would far prefer pamphlets that are low-budget, black-and-white books because that shows a good faith effort that BSA is trying to make scouting accessible to everybody. I'm not a big fan of worksheets, because ink and paper is expensive, and they could easily be produced for pennies on the dozen. So would it hurt the scout shop to have items that sell for a nickle? But they don't. So folks get fed up of MBs starting with a $3.50 purchase of a pamphlet, and chasing down adult applications, etc ...

        But they they also miss the point of going outside of the troop for a resource, or calling somebody and maybe have them come and present their career/hobby to them, or maybe arranging a visit to a location related to a merit-badge. Scouting was never meant to be an insular, go-it-alone endeavor.

        There are other missed opportunities. In this thread, the OP would like to be an MBC, and one troop basically shut the door on her. That's a shame. Because if one of those knuckle dragging boys would have said, "Mrs. C. would you like to council us on __ MB?" Maybe she would not be so apprehensive about the age difference between them and her son.


        • christineka
          christineka commented
          Editing a comment
          So, you don't need either worksheets or the merit badge books? I am not particularly fond of worksheets.

        • qwazse
          qwazse commented
          Editing a comment

          I know how much stuff costs. A black-and-white cover costs less. Our best monographs in my field (statistics) are 2-color at best. Why? Because very little of value gets conveyed via color, and it is more important to ensure accessibility to members of the field with limited resources. If BSA wants to get back in touch with cost-conscious parents, they need to convey that with a show of minimalism in their publications.

          Christine, as a counselor, you should get the book. The content is really designed to help boys who are new to the material. But, you may have a better book or magazine (or know of one in your local library), and you can suggest it. Point is, if you have the book, you will have an idea of how important it may be for the boy to have it. Worksheets are tangential to the boy earning the badge. They are just an organizational tool. Some boys really need them for some badges, but in most cases, they just get in the way. A notebook or tablet would do just as well.

          Like Perdi said, knowing the current requirements is the main thing. Sometimes a boy will call you and say something like "I have a partial blue card and need to complete requirement 2c." Although you should always have him tell you the requirement in words, it's a good idea to have a reference, just to be sure you're both on the same page!

        • Tim in NJ
          Tim in NJ commented
          Editing a comment
          Christineka: No, you do not need to buy the merit badge pamphlets, and any worksheets you find online are created by well-meaning people that are creating unofficial documentation. Its been 16 years since I have personally earned a merit badge, but I never used a worksheet for a single one. If you do become a merit badge counselor, your goal will be to work with the scouts in a way that gets through to them and allows them to understand the subject material. Worksheets might help some scouts, while others will benefit from different methods. You and the scouts work together towards the goal. Please take a look at the official description that I linked to above on BSA's own website when you get a chance. It really is a fantastic program when done right!

      • #9
        Also, I did become a merit badge counselor for two unpopular badges. I've just begun the process of applying for 5 more and was wondering what the use was. I think several of them would be more popular. (I have the form filled out- just need to scan and send to the district guy.)


        • #10
          Took a survey about the new digital merit badge books. Will be interested in seeing how they turn out.

          Christine--if you want "business" as a merit badge counselor, choose some of the less common Eagle required badges. Our troop, for example, is in need of more Family Life counselors.


          • christineka
            christineka commented
            Editing a comment
            I didn't know what was needed for Eagle, but Family Life was one I chose. I figure as mother of a large family, I should know quite a bit about family meetings and responsibilities. (I also picked Genealogy, Music, Reading, and Safety. The others are Bugling and Traffic Safety, both badges I've decided are "unofficial requirements" for both of my sons.)

          • Tim in NJ
            Tim in NJ commented
            Editing a comment
            Bugling has been the least-earned badge nationally for the last few years. Family Life will probably be the source of most of your phone calls. I've been registered as a Safety MB Counselor for over 2 years now... still waiting for the first scout on that one!

        • #11
          Scout Nut I'm not sure where you get your misinformation, but it's way off. You would do well to remember the District and Council are merely 2nd line support for the Charter Orgs who own the program.


          • qwazse
            qwazse commented
            Editing a comment
            I think my District Advancement Chair would side with scoutnut. He said HQ checks "funny" things with blue cards (e.g. lot's of different MBs with the same signature, too many MBs where boy's and councilor's last name match).

            It's not too far fetched that a registrar could check a signature that he/she didn't recognize to see, just for kicks, if the counselor ever registered with the BSA. I'm not saying it would happen (certainly not as overtaxed as many council staff are), but it could. However, I'd like to think that the boy who actually worked to do the badge would not loose credit because some adults couldn't see eye-to-eye on paperwork.

            For purposes of advancement, council is "2nd line support" in much the same way a sports club is "2nd line support" by providing referees on game days, and conference-judges for those close calls, unruly parents, etc... You could work around them, but things are more smooth if you work with them.

          • ScoutNut
            ScoutNut commented
            Editing a comment
            Olld_OX you would do well to remember that the Charter Orgs "own" the rights to have a unit that uses BSA's program. In other words, a CO "owns" the unit - not the program.

            My "misinformation" came directly from BSA, the organization that DOES "own" the program.

            BSA's 2013 Guide to Advancement has an entire chapter on the Merit Badge Program. Here is a link to that chapter in the online version of the Guide -


        • #12
          I hope this isn't hijacking too much.....
          So how does one become a MBC?
          What qualifies a person for a particular badge?
          I might consider volunteering for our troop if it would help.


          • qwazse
            qwazse commented
            Editing a comment
            Fill out a BSA adult app. No fee required. (I wonder, how much of our registration costs go into background checks on MBCs?) Technically you're a volunteer for the district. But, that doesn't mean you have to counsel out of anywhere besides your troop meeting place. A few of our ASMs arrange to meet boys from other troops during our meeting times. (Guaranteed youth protection.)

            Generally, we're looking for folks for whom the badge is either your training, occupation, or hobby. When your application is approved, think of a presentation or activity that you could provide by way of introducing the subject, and let the SPL know you're available if the boys would like to schedule it. If yours subject is not required for Eagle, that how you get a few boys to contact you about earning the badge in the following months.

            Now the SPL may not be able to fit you in any time soon, but he may announce
            "Let's give a big hand for Mr. blw2, is now officially a counselor for ___!" Depending on the assertiveness of the boys in your troop, you might still get enough interest to occupy your time.

        • #13
          Three "Big things": 1) FIll out the BSA Adult Application. 2) Fill out the Merit Badge Counselor Application (see 3) Complete Youth Protection Training, print out the certificate at the end.

          Turn these three things in at your council service center, and wait.

          More details:


          • #14
            ScoutNut, you read one BSA policy on advancement ... this is BSA. so complete your education by doing the following:

            1. Take MBC Orientation
            2. Read the current SM Handbook
            3. Take current Committee Challenge
            4. Read BSA District and Council Operations Guides
            5. Take Scoutmaster position specific training
            6. Take Philmont Training Center course for Key Three and District Operations

            What you'll find, after completing this list, is that like with so much else in BSA, the material is not in agreement. When you take all of this as a whole you will understand the accuracy of my original answer.

            As far as the CO/BSA relationship, you are once again correct in the written word of one policy regarding this question, but ignore several other items that interpret and modify what you're citing.

            For better, and worse, BSA policy is never a matter of one clearly written statement, from one source. You'll also find that many of the "policies" are not only written but someone who is clueless on how to make things work, and generally discarded, but that this was the intent when they were written ... corporations are good at CYA, and equally good at supporting what works, even if they can't get a room full of stuffed shirts to pass it as policy.


            • #15
              Originally posted by jpstodwftexas View Post
              I wish BSA would rule that Youths could not be Taught in House...No More Troop MBCs.
              Here's the other side of that coin. Where I live we do a ton of MB "colleges". They churn our MBs like a Texas BBQ joint turns our brisket. It's amazing. The level of detail is suspicious to say the least. There is little to no hands on work. They are supported by Districts (heck, they are run by Districts) and even Council.

              A few years back (when I was new to Scouting and so was my son) my son took the First Aid MB. It was an 8 hour course...of Powerpoint slides. No hands on. No demos. No EDGE. Nothing. My son came home and I asked him how the class was. He said he did not deserve the MB because he didn't do anything but sit there. I urged him to report his findings to his SM, the District and to Council (boy-led) which he did. Unfortunately the latter two did nothing to change this program. Our SM put together a program in-house -- using two doctors, an EMT and a few nurses we have -- to reteach the badge. It was not required for the boys to attend (since they already "earned" the badge) but every single boy attended. Yes, they even went through the steps of registering these professionals with Council to be MBCs.

              The result? The boys who attended thought it was the best MB program they had been to.

              The next year when that same District offered the same class (same format) we simply discouraged our boys from attending. We could not keep them from attending if they wanted to, but we simply gave them our opinion of the course and left the decision with them. I wish the District or Council had done something but they didn't.