What are Merit Badges? 

Earning Merit Badges is one of the ways that Scouts achieve advancement after the Rank of First Class.  For Star Rank, a Scout must have earned 6 merit badges, 4 of which must be on the "Eagle Required" list (13 of the 21 merit badges required for Eagle must be from that list). For Life Rank, a Scout must have earned 5 more Merit Badges, including 3 Eagle-required. Merit Badges introduce Scouts to numerous areas of our world and society that they may not have experienced or been introduced to before.  It also gets them talking and interacting with adults other than their parents or Scoutmaster/adult leaders.

When can I earn them/Opportunities?  

These Merit Badges can be earned at any time, and Scouts typically start earning them very soon after they become Scouts. Summer Camp is one of the best ways to earn Merit Badges, though there are many other opportunities--there are Merit Badge classes and events all the time (Winter Camp, Spring Break Camp, the Hampden-Sydney Merit Badge weekend, special weekends and other days set up by the District or Council). 

Starting a Badge/Counselors.  

Scouts can choose to work on any Merit Badge at any time--not just at a formal camp or event.  When a Scout decides to work on a badge, they should first get a "Blue Card" signed by a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster. They can consult the List of Merit Badge Counselors* available from the HOVA Council or the Scoutmaster or Advancement Coordinator and set up a meeting/discuss beginning to work on the badge. This Blue Card is signed by the Counselor once the badge is completed, and it becomes the Troop, Scout, and Council record of the Scout having completed the badge.  It is very important to keep these records for use when the Scout fills out his Eagle rank application! Blue cards can be purchased very inexpensively from the Scout store--or ask the Scoutmaster or Advancement Coordinator for one!

Merit Badge Requirements. 

There are more than 100 Merit Badges, and each of them have their own requirements.  The requirements are listed online and also in merit badge booklets available for purchase online or at the Scout Store (at the Council Office). Scouts do not necessarily need to buy the Merit Badge Booklet - it depends on the merit badge counselor. The Troop also maintains a small library of Merit Badge Booklets. Some of these may be out of date but are still useful.

Sometimes,  you will see certain requirements are called "Prerequisites". This means the merit badge counselor expects the Scout to complete these items before they come to camp or the meeting/event to work on the badge.  Most of the time, these can be done after as "post-requisites" as well.

Partials/Partial Completion.  For any number of reasons, a Scout may earn a "partial" on a a merit badge.  This means the Scout has not yet completed all of the requirements for the badge.  The partial is good for the Scout's entire Scouting career, so the Scout can complete them at any time and earn the badge!  Sometimes Scouts go for a year or more with certain badges as partials before they earn them.

* The Council has asked that we not post the Merit Badge Counselor List in order to protect the private information of the counselors.  Please do not publicly disseminate the list.  Read more here.