Many of the same questions frequently arise from merit badge counselors, especially those who are new to the program. Here are the answers to some of those FAQs.
Question: Must individuals who are serving as a merit badge counselor register as a merit badge counselor with the Boy Scouts of America?
Answer: Yes, an Adult Application must be completed for each position in which the individual wants to serve. The application allows only one position per form. For instance, an individual who wants to serve only as a merit badge counselor will need to complete one application. However, a Scoutmaster or assistant Scoutmaster who wants to serve as a merit badge counselor must complete two applications - one for the Scoutmaster position and one for the counselor position.
Question: Once the adult leader application has been submitted, how long does the approval process take?
Answer: The process usually takes from four to six weeks.
Question: What is the minimum age requirement for merit badge counselors?
Answer: An individual must be at least 18 years of age to serve as a merit badge counselor.
Question: Once a volunteer is registered and approved as a merit badge counselor, is that registration for life?
Answer: Approvals for merit badge counselors and all other adult volunteer positions are valid for one year only and must be renewed annually.
Question: Can a merit badge counselor who works only with a single unit obtain only unit committee approval?
Answer: With no exceptions, all merit badge counselors must be approved by the local council's advancement committee.
Question: How many merit badges can a merit badge counselor support?
Answer: Merit badge counselors may be approved for as many badges as they are qualified. However, the local council's approving body may impose a limitation based upon the needs of the local council and individual districts.
Question: Can merit badge counselors coach their own sons or close relatives (for instance, a nephew)?
Answer: Yes, but only if the young man is part of a group of Scouts who are all working on the same merit badge. Approved counselors may coach any Boy Scout who contacts them through the proper procedures.
Question: Does that mean group instruction is allowed?
Answer: A merit badge counselor may make a presentation to a group of Scouts on a merit badge subject. However, unless the merit badge requirements specifically allow for a group project, each Scout still must complete the requirements individually, and the Scout must meet with a merit badge counselor (and his buddy) to complete the requirements.
Question: How many merit badges can a Scout earn by working with a single merit badge counselor?
Answer: A Scout may earn as many merit badges from a counselor as the counselor is qualified and approved to counsel. Again, the spirit of the program is to expose the Scout to a wide circle of adults to help broaden his perspective.
Question: How much time does a Scout have to complete all the requirements for a merit badge?
Answer: There is no time limit as long as the Scout completes all the necessary requirements by the time he reaches age 18.
Question: Can a merit badge counselor require a Scout to work beyond the specific requirements of the merit badge in order to challenge the Scout and allow him to discover more about the subject?
Answer: In fairness to all Scouts, additions, deletions, or other modifications to the requirements are not permitted. The requirements are to be completed exactly as written. However, a merit badge counselor may share additional information and resources that the Scout could use on his own to learn more and challenge himself.
Question: What happens when the weather, locale, or some other circumstance makes meeting all of the conditions of the merit badge requirements impractical? Can substitute requirements be created for those stated?
Answer: No additions, deletions, or alterations are permitted. The requirements are to be completed exactly as written.
Question: If the requirements for a merit badge on the required list for the Eagle Scout rank vary among the Boy Scout Handbook, the merit badge pamphlet, and the Boy Scout Requirements book (current edition), which resource takes precedence?
Answer: The current edition of the Boy Scout Requirements book lists the official set of requirements for rank advancement and for each individual merit badge.
Question: What is the buddy system, and why is it necessary?
Answer: The buddy system is a safety routine that calls for a Scout to be paired with a buddy whenever he participates in Scouting activities such as aquatics, cycling, or hiking, and when he meets with his merit badge counselor. It is a way for Scouts to look after one another, stay safe, and have more fun. During meetings with adult leaders, a Scout's buddy can be another Scout or friend, or a relative.
Question: What BSA Youth Protection guidelines and leadership practices should a merit badge counselor be aware of whenever meeting with a Scout?
Answer: Be sure to follow the buddy system. Whenever a merit badge counselor meets with a Scout, there must always be a third person present. This third person may be any other adult familiar to the Scout such as his parent or guardian, or the Scout's "buddy", such as a friend, sibling, or other relatives.