Understanding the Scoutmaster conference


From the Boy Scout joining requirements to Eagle Palms, the Scoutmaster conference is a constant. A Scout must participate in such a conference when he joins a troop and at every step along the advancement trail. Some Scouters don’t understand the purpose of this meeting, viewing it as little more than a paperwork exercise or a dress rehearsal for the board of review. Savvy Scouters, however, grasp its value and importance.

WHAT IS A SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE? It’s simply a visit between the Scoutmaster and a Scout. (In a Varsity Scout team, the Coach conducts the conference.) During the conference, the two can discuss the Scout’s ambitions and life purpose, set goals for future achievement (both in Scouting and beyond), review the Scout’s participation in the troop and explore his understanding and practice of the ideals of Scouting. The conference also gives the Scoutmaster an opportunity to solicit feedback on the troop program and any challenges the Scout is facing.

HOW LONG SHOULD A SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE LAST? Conferences should last 10 to 15 minutes, although those for Eagle Scouts might last 30 minutes or more.

WHERE SHOULD THESE CONFERENCES TAKE PLACE? They can be conducted at troop meetings, during outdoor activities or in the Scout’s home (provided a parent is also present). Given the relaxed nature of many outings, a campsite can be a good setting. Each conference should be a private discussion between the Scoutmaster and a Scout, but it must be held in full view of other people in accordance with the BSA’s Youth Protection policy.

CAN A SCOUT FAIL A SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE? No, it is not a test. Note that a Scout must participate or take part in a conference, not pass it.


IF A SCOUT SETS A GOAL DURING A SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE, DOES HE HAVE TO ACHIEVE IT? No. However, it makes sense to follow up with him later and to provide encouragement. Some Scoutmasters take notes after each conference and review them before meeting with a Scout again.

DOES THE SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE HAVE TO BE THE LAST REQUIREMENT COMPLETED FOR A RANK? No. While it can make sense to hold a conference after other requirements for a rank have been met, the conference doesn’t have to be the last step before the board of review.

CAN I HOLD A SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE FOR A SCOUT WHO IS NOT ADVANCING? Yes. In fact, that would be a good way to find out if the Scout is having problems.

CAN I DELEGATE SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCES TO ANOTHER ADULT LEADER? Yes, under limited circumstances. For example, if the troop is so large that the Scoutmaster can’t handle them all, he or she might delegate some of them to an assistant Scoutmaster. Keep in mind, however, that if a Scout sees different leaders along his trail to Eagle, he won’t have the chance to develop a relationship with the Scoutmaster, and the conferences can’t build on what has been discussed previously.

CAN I DENY A SCOUT A SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCE IF I FEEL HE’S NOT READY? No. Since the conference is not a test the Scout can fail, there’s nothing he needs to be ready for.

WHO CONDUCTS SCOUTMASTER CONFERENCES FOR A VENTURER WORKING ON BOY SCOUT ADVANCEMENT? If a First Class Scout is continuing his Boy Scout advancement work in Venturing or Sea Scouting, his Advisor or Skipper conducts the conference. If the Scout maintains dual registration, the Scoutmaster and Advisor or Skipper should decide who will oversee his Boy Scout advancement.



  1. I thought you might really appreciate having this article. It was published 3 montus after your Eagle Board of Review. This magazine is printed monthly and sent free of charge to ALL registered adults. Just because they recieve the magazine does not mean that they read it cover to cover. So read this article and tell me what you discover about the Scoutmaster conference. Tell me how our adults can improve the process to be better Scoutmasters. What can we do to improve the scouting experience for everyone in the troop?

    • My son is in scouts; he changed troops about a year ago because the troop was not very active. The new troop seemed great, he was working on Life scout when he transferred about a year ago. His new Scoutmaster will not let him rank. I have texts he has sent on the reasons why He has to be clean (he was messy on a camp along with the scoutmasters son and several other scouts out but he has been working on improving), Cannot lose boy scouts paperwork or patches, put up a tent and sleep in it overnight (he passed his OA test), he has to started with flint and steel. know everything from Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Get a cyber chip that he was already ranked before that went into effect, Not have a wrinkle in any tarp that is set up, Not to sit when he goes camping and he has to know everything about any of the merit badges he has got I am told that The Scout Master can ask any or all of those things at his review. We had one scout that has only attended 45% of the meetings but passed got his board and ranked. Could someone give me some advice?

      • Hi Lisa,
        It sounds like some of the items you listed could be accurate as they are requirements for some ranks. Also, you say your son was working on Life so I am assuming he did not complete it. If he has his book and/or another authoritative record from the old Troop, that would qualify him as having completed those items. The SM may ask to check his knowledge but ‘once it’s signed, it’s completed’ and can’t be undone (except for rare circumstances). Some of the items you say the SM is stating seem ridiculous – no wrinkle in a tarp, remember and recall everything from MB’s, losing items, etc. Sounds like you and your son should have a discussion with the Scoutmaster and understand both sides of the story.
        Check out the Guide to Advancement – https://www.scouting.org/resources/guide-to-advancement/ so you can be educated on the advancement process the BSA uses. It might turn out that the SM needs to review this again.

      • Call your Unit Commissioner Advanvement Chairman and get some counseling and help. If you don’t know who that is contact the District Commissioner by calling the Council office. The boy cannot be retested on any of the MBs he has earned. A review is not bad but not mandatory if signed off by the Counselor! The Troop program should reinforce the learning by having the Scout teach the skills he’s learned to a younger Scout. I hope this helps.
        10 year Scout/58 year Scouter ‘55 Eagle

      • I always heard that once a Scout earned a rank, they couldn’t be retested on the requirements… and that a Scoutmaster conference wasn’t supposed to be a test, but a conversation with the Scoutmaster to see how the scout wss doing. If he got as far as the conference, he’s already fulfilled the rank requirements and they should have been signed off in his/her book.

  2. Oops, technology and eye strain. I thought I was emailing the link to the article. You do not need to post my reply above. I thought the comment section was clised anyway.

  3. Definitely a good read and clarifies some things. However, our Troop’s Assistant Scout Masters perform the conferences for those advancing up to 2nd class and then 1st Class and above goes to the Scout Master. From what I’ve heard when the conference is being performed the Scouts are actually being tested because the individual performing the conference is going back over the requirements in the book and being quizzed on them. My son met 5 times for 2nd class with several different Assistant Scout Masters before he was told that he was ready for a board of review. I raised an issue with this along with the fact that the committee voted for the Troop to apply the new standards to those who are currently advancing through Tenderfoot to First Class. In other words, if a boy is waiting to complete his BOR for 2nd Class when he stars 1st Class the new Standards will apply. Because I addressed this issue, the Scout Master is now telling me that my son’s conference which has already been signed off is null and void and that he will have to meet with him before he can do a BOR.

    • Yes joe, a scout can fail a board of review. This is an article about the Scoutmaster conference, which a scout cannot fail. The page you sited is an explanation of Board of Reviews, not Scoutmaster Conferences. Two different things.

  4. I’m doing some research for my scout master can you show me any writing in any official BSA documents that are current. I see info about board of reviews but not a scout master review.

  5. can you tell me if the workbook have to be completed and or eagle project must finish before scout have the scoutmaster conference?

  6. I realize that this article is older … My son “failed” his Eagle SMC last night. Apparently the person doing the review was unaware of all of this information. His reasoning were completely subjective. And being as such, there is nothing tangible that can be done or improved upon. I’m so thankful for articles and information like this that shows that a SM or ASM can’t hold a kid back.

  7. Well if failure isn’t possible, that certainly explains why a number of scouts at the Eagle Boards I’ve sat on can’t recite the oath and law.

    Removing failure really takes away the meat of knowing anything. So much for developing grit and determination. Not even the ability to postpone and put a scout on an improvement plan until he’s ready?

    This is why I do ‘pre’ scoutmaster conference’s first. To check their book for service hours, camping nights, and completed requirements for the rank.

  8. I read recently on a popular Scoutmaster forum that a Scout could complete his Scoutmaster conferences for Tenderfoot through First Class ranks without first earning the preceding ranks. That is, while working to earn the Scout rank, a Scout could have four Scoutmaster conferences and they would count towards Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class. The SM conference requirements for Tenderfoot through First Class say they must must be completed after completing the SM conference for the preceding rank (not after completing the board of review for the preceding rank). Could this be what was intended?

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