Merit Badge List & Application
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The history of merit badges in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been tracked by categorizing them into a series of merit badge types. In addition to the Boy Scouts of America, many other Scouting and Scouting-like organizations around the world, such as Pathfinders, Baden-Powell Scouts and Royal Rangers, issue merit badges or their equivalent; though they are sometimes called honors or proficiency badges. Other organizations, such as fire brigades, issue badges or awards that they refer to as merit badges, but that are in some respects different from the badges awarded by the BSA.
Merit badges have been an integral part of the Scouting program since the start of the movement in the United Kingdom on August 1, 1907, and are an important part of the uniform and insignia of the Boy Scouts. Scouting came to the United States in 1910; the BSA quickly issued an initial list of just 14 merit badges, but did not produce or award them. In 1911, the BSA manufactured the first official 57 merit badges and began awarding them. The number of badges available has been as high as 127 in 1975 and again in 1987. As of March 2014, the number of badges available is 134. Merit badge types are identifiable by the cloth and manufacturing process used to make them. The classification of badges into types came about as a way for collectors to categorize and classify their collections. Merit badge collectors often collect other Scouting memorabilia as well.
Purpose of merit badges
Merit badges exist to encourage Scouts to explore areas that interest them and to teach them valuable skills in Scoutcraft. The award of merit badges sometimes leads to careers and lifelong hobbies. Scouts earn a merit badge by satisfying specified criteria; a Court of Honor is then held to present the badge. Scouts can earn badges at any point in their Scouting career, although this was not always the case — in the 1960s, Scouts first had to earn the rank of First Class Scout before being allowed to work on and earn badges. The higher ranks of Star, Life Scout and Eagle require merit badges be earned. Certain badges are mandatory to receive these higher ranks. For a few years during the 1980s and 90s, First Aid merit badge was a requirement for the First Class Scout rank. Other mandatory badges include Citizenship in the Community and Environmental Science. The number of merit badges required for each of these higher ranks has varied historically, as has the ratio of mandatory merit badges and non-mandatory badges for those ranks. Since 2005, Scouts must earn a total of 21 merit badges for the Eagle Scout rank, 12 of which must be from the mandatory list. Once Scouts attain the Eagle rank, they can earn Eagle Palms, a core requirement of which is earning more merit badges.
Cub Scout Ranks
From let to right: Bobcat, Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos I, Webelos II, Arrow of Light
Boy Scout Ranks
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From left to right: Scout, Tenderfoot, 2nd Class, 1st Class, Star, Life, Eagle