postheadericon About Merit Badges

Merit badges are earned by learning and exploring a particular subject. There are usually around 120 merit badges, and new ones are frequently added as obsolete ones are being dropped.   Requirements to earn merit badges are also changing regularly.

You can begin earning merit badges as soon as you become a Boy Scout -- that is, when you receive your Scout badge -- and you can continue working on them and earning them until the day before your eighteenth birthday. You must earn at least 21 merit badges for Eagle (including 12 that you MUST earn,) but there is no limit to the number of merit badges you can earn.

We don't generally emphasize merit badges for new Scouts.  The reason for this is that it is much more important that they learn things like knife safety and fire safety, poisonous plants, first aid, knots, and the other skills that are essential to safe, fun outdoor activity.   The Tenderfoot through First Class ranks are mainly about learning Scout skills.  The ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle are mainly about leadership and merit badges. 

With that in mind, however, it is perfectly fine if a new Scout wants to earn a merit badge.  In fact, if you go to the Buffalo Braves program at Tuckahoe AND you sign up for Camp Airy, it is possible for a new Scout to earn as many as six or seven merit badges by the end of the summer.  (If you are not a first-year Scout, you might be able to earn many more than that.)

A note about the Eagle-required merit badges. There are 15 Eagle-required merit badges listed, but some of these are optional. I.e., you must earn Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling, not all three, and you must earn Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving, not both. So there are only 12 specific merit badges that you must earn, of the 15 Eagle-required merit badges.

(On the other hand, unless you have physical issues with completing all of them, earning all 15 of them is highly recommended.)

The best place to earn merit badges is at summer camp.   It is a lot of fun, but it also lets you earn a lot in a short period of time.  We will earn a few merit badges over the course of a year in our troop, but most merit badges are earned at summer camp.

We've put the detailed instructions on how to earn a merit badge on your own here.  The best resource for current Merit Badge requirements is here.