Merit Badge Counselor

As a merit badge counselor, your mission is to join fun with learning. You are both a teacher and mentor to Scouts as they work on a merit badge and learn by doing. By presenting opportunities for growth by way of engaging activities such as designing a Web page (Digital Technology), performing an ollie and a wheelie (Snowboarding), or fabricating rope (Pioneering), you can pique a young Scout's interest in the merit badge subject. Just think: Your hands-on involvement could inspire a Scout to develop a lifelong hobby, pursue a particular career, or become an independent, self-supporting adult. By serving as a merit badge counselor, you offer your time, knowledge, and other resources so that Scouts can explore a topic of interest.

The Process

  • A Scout first expresses an interest in a merit badge by letting their unit leader know.
  • The leader gives the Scout a signed Application for Merit Badge (blue card), and directs them to the council Website (www.sdicbsa.org) to locate a counselor in thei area.
  • The Scout contacts the merit badge counselor and makes an appointment for themself and a buddy.
  • The merit badge counselor sets a date and time to meet with the Scout and buddy, and may suggest the Scout bring the merit badge pamphlet along with the blue card.

First Meeting

  • The Scout and the merit badge counselor review and start working on the requirements. In some cases, the Scout may share with the merit badge counselor the requirements started or accomplished.
  • The merit badge counselor and the Scout work out a tentative schedule for completing the requirements. Consider both short-term and long-term goals, keeping other obligations (school, sports, etc) in mind, and set dates, times, and a location for future meetings. The number of meetings will depend on the difficulty of the requirements and the preparation and ability of the Scout.

Merit Badge Counselor's Duties

  • Ensure the Scout meets all the requirements for the merit badge you are counseling.
  • Help Scouts overcome the different hurdles of the requirements and make them aware of the deeper aspects of the subject through their learning experience.
  • You may tell about your own experiences to help positively reinforce the subject matter.
  • DO NOT tack on new or additional requirements or extra work.
  • Guide and instruct a Scout on the subject matter, but let them do the work.
  • As each requirement is completed, test the Scout individually, and update the blue card as the Scout completes each requirement.
  • When the Scout has completed all the requirements, sign off on the blue card and the Scout returns the completed card to their unit leader.

Helpful Hints: Simple tips that every merit badge counselor should keep in mind.

  • Make the Scout feel welcome and relaxed. Start by finding out what the Scout already knows about the subject.
  • Stimulate the Scout's interest by showing them something related to the merit badge subject, but don't overwhelm them; remember, the Scout is probably a beginner.
  • Carefully review each requirement, start with easy skills or questions, and encourage practice.
  • Expect the Scout to do exactly what the requirements specify. Many of the requirements involve hands-on activities that call for a Scout to show or demonstrate; make; list; discuss; or collect, identify, and label - and the Scout must do just that.
  • Don't make the requirement more difficult - or any easier - than stated. A Scout may undertake more activities on their own initiative, but the Scout cannot be required to do so.
  • During testing, the Scout might need help in a particular area or with a certain skill, and may need to be retested later to ensure the requirement has been fulfilled.
  • Encourage self-evaluation and self-reflection, and establish an atmosphere that encourages the Scout to ask for help.
  • Take a genuine interest in the Scout's projects, and encourage completion.

The merit badge counselor assesses the Scout's knowledge to ensure they have completed all the required work - no more, and no less. You may not add to, delete from, or modify the merit badge requirements in any way, although certain considerations can be made for Scouts with disabilities.

BSA Youth Protection Training (YPT)

The Scouts BSAs of America REQUIRES that merit badge counselors take BSA Youth Protection training (YPT). The BSA Youth Protection guidelines have been adopted primarily for the protection of youth members; however, they also serve to protect adult volunteers and leaders from false accusations of abuse. Youth Protection Training is available online at my.scouting.org.

BSA Youth Protection policies include:

  • Two-deep leadership
  • No one-on-one contact
  • Respecting privacy
  • Reporting problems

BSA Position Specific Training

The SDIC Advancement Committee REQUIRES that merit badge counselors take BSA Position Specific Training. It is available online at my.scouting.org. Click on Menu; click on My Training; click on Scouts BSA; click on Merit Badge Counselor Position Specific Training: Step 1 and Step 2. It is also recommended that merit badge counselors view the PowerPoint training titled The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling (okay to use until further notice).

Fast Facts for the Merit Badge Counselor

  • A merit badge counselor must register with the Scouts BSAs of America and renew the registration annually. There are no fees to register as a merit badge counselor.
  • The minimum age requirement for a merit badge counselor is 18 years of age.
  • A merit badge counselor becomes a member of the zone's advancement committee.
  • A merit badge counselor may counsel any Scout, including their own child - although this is discouraged to offer a Scout the chance to meet a diverse group of outstanding adults.
  • A counselor may be certified in unlimited merit badge subjects, but they must be approved for each one.
  • There is no limit on the number of merit badges that a counselor may counsel with one Scout. However, the Scout will benefit the most from working with a variety of outstanding adults.
  • All merit badge counselors must be approved by the council advancement committee. San Diego-Imperial Council encourages merit badge counselors to be available to all youth rather than to just one unit.
  • A merit badge counselor must follow the guidelines of no one-on-one contact with Scouts.
  • Unit leaders are not automatically approved as merit badge counselors.
  • Group instruction is acceptable for some merit badges, but each Scout must be tested and passed individually.
  • There is no time limit for completion of merit badges, but all work on merit badges must be completed before the Scout's 18th birthday.
  • While the pamphlet is not required for the Scout to earn the merit badge, it helps the counselor to know what the Scout may be studying and the level of learning expected of the Scout. Many of the merit badge pamphlets contain suggested projects and other activities or demonstrations to help the Scout fulfill the requirements or to stimulate other ideas from the Scout and their merit badge counselor. Each book also contains a helpful resources section.
  • Once a Scout has started working on a merit badge, they may stay with the requirements in effect when it was started. The Scout is not required to meet newly introduced changes unless the national office places a specific timeline on the implementation of new requirements.

San Diego-Imperial Council Merit Badge Counselor Application

If you would like to sign up as a Merit Badge Counselor for this year, please contact the council office in any of the following ways. Also, if any of your personal or contact information changes, please let us know.

  • Phone: 619.298.6121 or by Fax: 619.369.3600
  • E-mail: Office Manager
  • US Postal Mail: 1207 Upas St., San Diego, CA 92103 Attn: Merit Badge Counselor App
  • Hand Deliver to: 1207 Upas St., San Diego, CA 92103 - Council Office

If you are not currently a Merit Badge Counselor, or you know someone that you would like to refer; in brief, the requirements are: 18+ years of age, some experience and proficiency in the Merit Badge, a willingness to work with youth and abide by BSA policies (cannot add/delete from MB requirements) and to follow Youth Protection Training (YPT) when meeting with youth and to be registered with the BSA.

Term is one year and may be renewed. The term runs from January 1st to December 31st.

Rosters are managed by the Zone Advancement Chair and are merged to form a Council-wide list.

Resources for Merit Badge Counselors

  • Application for Merit Badge (commonly known as the "blue card"), No. 34124
  • Scouts BSA Requirements, No. 33216
    Updated yearly, this book contains the complete, official requirements for all BSA merit badges, ranks, and special awards. Requirements in this publication may be more current than the merit badge pamphlet; therefore, the Scouts BSA Requirements takes precedence.
  • Merit Badge Pamphlet Series
    The merit badge pamphlets are written for Scout-age youth. The information presented in the pamphlet will help the counselor understand what the Scout may be studying and the level of learning expected by the Boy Scouts of America. The pamphlets may also contain suggestions for projects or demonstrations required to earn the merit badge. At times, the requirements presented in the merit badge pamphlet may not match those in the current edition of the Scouts BSA Requirements book. The Scouts BSA Requirements criteria take precedence.