Scouts BSA Advancement

Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. Scouts plan their own advancement and progress at their own pace as they meet each challenge. Scouts are recognized and rewarded for each achievement, which helps them gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.

Advancement is the process by which youth members of the Boy Scouts of America progress from rank to rank and is the method by which we promote and encourage the ongoing involvement and commitment that keeps members coming back for more. It works best when it is built into a unit’s program so that simply participating leads to meaningful achievement and recognition—and to a continually improving readiness for more complex experiences.

Scout BSA Advancement

Scouts BSA advancement isn’t age- or grade-based. The Scout, with support and guidance from parents and Scout leaders, progresses at his or her own pace.

The Scouts BSA Handbook suggests that members earn the Scout rank “soon after joining.” It goes on to say that earning Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class should happen within the first 12 to 18 months of joining Scouts BSA.

At Star, Life and Eagle, Scouts tend to spread out a little bit. Some Scouts advance through those ranks quickly while others take their time. There’s no right approach — every Scout is different.

Beginning at the Star rank, the BSA adds time-based requirements:

Star: Active as a First Class Scout for at least four months; serve in a position of responsibility for at least four months.

LifeActive as a Star Scout for at least six months; serve in a position of responsibility for at least six months.

Eagle: Active as a Life Scout for at least six months; serve in a position of responsibility for at least six months.

Add those requirements up, and you’ll get a minimum of 16 months between becoming First Class and earning Eagle. That’s a minimum.

Clearing up misconceptions

The mechanics of Cub Scout advancement could leave Scouts and parents with a mistaken belief that Scouts BSA advancement works the same way.

There are seven ranks in Scouts BSA, and an 11-year-old Scout has seven years before he or she turns 18. Seven ranks, seven years? Some families assume that a Scout must earn Eagle just before turning 18.

That’s not the case, but it could be part of the reason why the average age of Eagle Scouts is around 17.25.

That’s why the BSA recommends discussing Scouts BSA advancement during new Scout and parent orientation. Some points to make:

  • Advancement in Scouts BSA is based on individual initiative with guidance and encouragement from the patrol leader, Scoutmaster, and other youth and adult leaders.
  • Scouts BSA has seven ranks: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Requirements are found in the Scouts BSA Handbook and online.
  • Advancement has four steps: Learn, Test, Review and Recognize.
  • Some of the requirements for each rank have a time element, so Scouts will want to plan ahead so they don’t run out of time.
  • Alternative advancement paths are available for Scouts with permanent physical or developmental challenges.