A MERIT BADGE counselor is more than a box-checker. He or she is a caring adult who is enthusiastic about a career, hobby or other subject and is willing to share that enthusiasm with Scouts. The best counselors encourage Scouts to keep learning long after they’ve completed their last badge requirement — perhaps for the rest of their lives.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS? A counselor must be a man or woman of good character, 18 or older, who has skills and education in the subjects he or she covers. He or she must register as a merit badge counselor even if already registered in another position — and must have completed Youth Protection training within the last two years. There is no registration fee.
IS SPECIFIC TRAINING OR CERTIFICATION REQUIRED? Some badges require special qualifications for the counselor or the supervisor of activities. See topic 188.8.131.52 in the Guide to Advancement (No. 33088) for details.
DO SCOUTMASTERS HAVE BLANKET APPROVAL TO SIGN OFF ON ALL MERIT BADGES? No. Like all other counselors, they must be approved for any badge on which they wish to counsel or sign off.
WHO APPROVES COUNSELORS? The local council advancement committee.
HOW DOES AN INDIVIDUAL APPLY TO BECOME A MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR? By submitting the Merit Badge Counselor Information sheet (No. 34405) to the advancement committee. On this sheet, the applicant lists the badges he or she wishes to counsel and his or her qualifications. Find an application at bit.ly/mbcounselorinfo.
IS THERE A LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF BADGES ONE INDIVIDUAL MAY COUNSEL? The local council may choose to set a limit, although it must not do so to the point that lack of counselors becomes a barrier to advancement. Also, the unit leader may limit the number of merit badges earned from one counselor, so long as the limit applies to all members of the unit.
CAN A COUNSELOR WORK WITH HIS OR HER OWN SON? Yes. But unit leaders may encourage (but not require) Scouts to branch out.
DO DIFFERENT RULES APPLY TO SUMMER CAMPS AND MERIT BADGE FAIRS? No. Younger staff members at summer camp may assist, but they must work with qualified counselors.
DO COUNSELORS HAVE TO REREGISTER EACH YEAR? Yes, but they don’t have to complete new adult applications; their names simply appear on the district roster for renewal.
CAN COUNSELORS OFFER WORKPLACE TOURS AND OTHER OPPORTUNITIES? Yes, so long as those activities are optional and comply with BSA policies, including Youth Protection.
HOW CAN COUNSELORS GET TRAINED? Start with the Merit Badge Counselor Instructor’s Guide at bit.ly/mbinstructorsguide.
Find more answers to all of your advancement-related questions in at SCOUTINGMAGAZINE.ORG/FAQ