To earn a merit badge, a young person must work with a registered merit badge counselor. Here are some frequently asked questions about these important adult volunteers.
What are the requirements to be a merit badge counselor?
Counselors must be men or women of good character who are 18 or older with skills and education in the subjects they cover. They also must be registered as an adult BSA leader and apply for the position of merit badge counselor (position code 42). They also must have completed Youth Protection Training within the past two years.
What training and expertise must a counselor have?
There are no specific requirements for most badges, although the counselor must be knowledgeable about the topic. (Oftentimes this means involvement in the field as a career or hobby.) For a handful of badges, mostly in aquatics and shooting sports, special qualifications and/or current certifications are required; these are listed in section 126.96.36.199 of the Guide to Advancement.
Who approves merit badge counselors?
The council advancement committee, although responsibility is sometimes delegated to the district advancement committee. Council or district approval is required even for counselors who serve only Scouts in their own units. The advancement committee should maintain a current list of registered and approved counselors and make it available to the leaders of troops, crews and ships.
How does a merit badge counselor get approved?
In addition to submitting an adult application, a potential counselor must submit the Merit Badge Counselor Information form (No. 34405) to the council or district advancement committee, depending on local policies. On this form, the applicant lists which badges he or she wants to counsel, plus relevant training and experience. There’s no fee to register as a merit badge counselor.
Can’t a Scoutmaster counsel any merit badge automatically?
No. A unit leader must register as a counselor and be approved for the merit badges in question.
Does a merit badge counselor have to work with any Scout who asks?
On the Merit Badge Counselor Information sheet, the counselor can specify whether he or she wants to work with any Scouts or just those from specified units.
How does Youth Protection affect merit badge counseling?
As in all Scouting activities, no one-on-one contact is permitted, and two-deep leadership is required. However, in the case of merit badge counseling, one of the Scout’s parents can serve as the second required adult.
Is internet-based counseling permitted?
The preferred method is face-to-face interaction. However, councils can develop procedures to allow counseling via the internet. See section 188.8.131.52 of the Guide to Advancement for more information.
Where can I learn more?
An excellent resource is the pamphlet A Guide for Merit Badge Counseling (No. 512-065).
Please be careful with online merit badges and points of interest that offer merit badges – make sure that they are actual registered (current merit badge counselors with up-to-date YPT) as counselors and authorized to approve completion of requirements. We have had issues with scouts in our unit going to workshops held by local museums where the staff were not registered as MBC, including merit badges being questioned/challenged during an Eagle BOR.
For what it’s worth, an Eagle BOR shouldn’t be able to “challenge” merit badges during the board. Unless the scout is requesting a board be held under disputed circumstances, the local council office signs off on the application form to certify acceptable completion of the rank requirements other than the BOR itself.
Guide to Advancement 184.108.40.206 – Though one reason for a board of review is to help ensure the Scout did what was supposed to have been done to meet the requirements, it shall become neither a retest or “examination,” nor a challenge of the Scout’s knowledge.
“Is internet-based counseling permitted?”
Over the last few weeks, we have little choice.
I can’t wait to put the OUTING back into scouting.
I am a counselor in numerous merit badges. This past year I helped by presenting in a merit badge mania event on line where I taught more than 20 scouts across the US a merit badge. A few of these scouts thought that they would complete the badge in 4 hours and had planed on passing some requirements with corner cutting ideas they applied. That upset me to a degree, but I could understand their thinking. Eventually about 19 scouts completed the badge, but most of them made virtual contact with me over the net 3 to 6 weeks to pass off the requirements. I required that each scout be able to speak to explain the necessary information as well a do the required projects. When I did this I also explained that it does nothing to help them by making it easy to cut short the required information or activity. That only makes them think that less than complete understanding is acceptable in anything they do in their future. Hopefully the other three that did not complete requirements with me were able to complete with a counselor in their area of residence.
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