There are seven ranks in Scouts BSA that are to be earned sequentially no matter what age a youth joins the program.
The Scout rank is oriented toward learning the basic information every youth needs to know to be a good Scout. It starts with the Scout demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan and then introduces the Scout to basic troop operations and safety concerns.
Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks are oriented toward learning and practicing skills that will help Scouts develop confidence and fitness, challenge their thought processes, introduce them to their responsibilities as citizens, and prepare them for exciting and successful Scouting experiences. Requirements for the Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks may be worked on simultaneously; however, these ranks must be earned in sequence.
All requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle, except for those related to merit badges, must be fulfilled after the successful completion of a board of review for the previous rank.
In Scouts BSA, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice.
Four Steps in Advancement
A Scout advances from the Scout rank to the Eagle rank by doing things with a patrol and troop, with adult and youth leaders, and independently. A well-rounded and active unit program that generates advancement as a natural outcome should enable Scouts to achieve First Class in their first 12 to 18 months of membership. Advancement is a straightforward matter when the four steps or stages outlined below are observed and integrated into troop programming. The same steps apply to members who are qualified to continue with Scouts BSA advancement in Venturing or Sea Scouts. In these cases, references to troops and various troop leaders would point to crews and ships, and their respective leaders.
The Scout Learns
With learning, a Scout grows in the ability to contribute to the patrol and troop. As Scouts develop knowledge and skills, they are asked to teach others and, in this way, they learn and develop leadership.
The Scout Is Tested
The unit leader authorizes those who may test and pass the Scout on rank requirements. They might include the patrol leader, the senior patrol leader, the unit leader, an assistant unit leader, or another Scout. Merit badge counselors teach and test Scouts on requirements for merit badges.
Once a Scout has been tested and signed off by someone approved to do so, the requirement has been met. The unit leader is accountable for ensuring proper advancement procedures are followed. A part of this responsibility includes the careful selection and training of those who approve advancement. If a unit leader believes a Scout has not learned the subject matter for a requirement that has been signed off, he or she should see that opportunities are made available for the Scout to practice or teach the requirement. Thus the Scout may complete their learning and further develop the related skills.
The Scout Is Reviewed
After completing all the requirements for a rank, except Scout rank, a Scout meets with a board of review. For Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, and Life ranks, members of the unit committee conduct it. The Eagle Scout board of review is held in accordance with National Council and local council procedures.
The Scout Is Recognized
When a Scout has earned the Scout rank or when a board of review has approved advancement, the Scout deserves recognition as soon as possible. This should be done at a ceremony at the next unit meeting. The achievement may be recognized again later, such as during a formal court of honor.
After the Scout Is Tested and Recognized
After the Scout is tested and recognized, a well-organized unit program will help the Scout practice newly learned skills in different settings and methods: at unit meetings, through various activities and outings, by teaching other Scouts, while enjoying games and leading projects, and so forth. These activities reinforce the learning, show how Scout skills and knowledge are applied, and build confidence. Repetition is the key; this is how retention is achieved. The Scout fulfills a requirement and then is placed in a situation to put the skills to work. Scouts who have forgotten any skills or information might seek out a friend, leader, or other resource to help refresh their memory. In so doing, these Scouts will continue to grow.