Westchester-Putnam Council, BSA Merit Badge Counseling wpcbsa.org 


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The merit badge program is part of the Advancement program of the Boy Scouts of America. A merit badge is an award that is presented to a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout when he has completed the requirements for one of more than 100 subjects in a wide range of art, craft, hobby, sport, trade, profession, service or self-improvement areas.

The merit badge program is one of Boy Scouting's basic measurement tools. Earning merit badges gives a Scout the kind of self-confidence that comes from overcoming obstacles to achieve a goal. Through the merit badge program, a Scout also learns career skills, develops socially, and may develop physical skills and hobbies that give a lifetime of healthful recreation.

This program cannot succeed without the service of unit and district volunteers who serve as Merit Badge Counselors. Each Merit Badge Counselor is expert in a particular subject and interested in helping Scouts grow into men of character, ready to take their place in the world of work as participating citizens.

The steps to follow in the merit badge program are outlined in the current Boy Scout Requirements. This book also lists the requirements a Scout meets to earn each of the more than 100 merit badges that are available. Several unofficial websites have current requirements for all Merit Badges, such as www.usscouts.org  on its Merit Badge Requirements pages, and www.meritbadge.com for a complete list of authorized merit badges and a worksheet to aid scouts in the completion of the requirements.

There are really three simple rules to remember as a Merit Badge Counselor:

  • Scouts must be tested individually but must always have a "buddy" present
  • Scouts must meet all of the requirements
  • No one has authority to change any of these requirements


Accessing the Merit Badge Counselor List
The all awaited Westchester/Putnam Merit Badge Counselor List is now online. This list will be updated monthly by the Council Merit Badge Dean with counselors that have been registered, have current Youth Protection, have an expertise in the subject matter and are approved by the Dean. This list will allow units to have access to the most current list and be able to effectively choose a counselor for their scouts. This list is ONLY available to the Scoutmaster, Committee Chair and Advancement Chair.

This site can only be accessed with a google account entered by the council Merit Badge Dean.   Each Troop will be asked to send one Gmail address that the troop will use to access the site-only one email for each troop will be permitted.  It may be the scoutmaster or advancement chair's personal email, or a troop Gmail account. The email must be either a Gmail address or any other email address (e.g., yahoo) so long as it is linked with a Google account. Troops can open a Gmail account (e.g., Troop1MountKisco@gmail.com) and then can provide the password to whomever in the troop they want to be able to get access to the lists.  As a reminder, only the Scoutmaster, committee chair or advancement chair may log in to this website. It is not to be published or given to scouts or parents.

If your troop is not currently signed up, please contact the Dean at:

Recruiting and Training Merit Badge Counselors
The essence of quality Scouting is having sufficient qualified adult leaders. Nowhere does this become more apparent than in the recruitment of adults to serve as Merit Badge Counselors. Because Merit Badge Counselors must be knowledgeable in specialized area as well as able to have a good rapport with Scout-age boys, the Council and District Advancement Committees have a challenging task in seeking, recruiting, and training Merit Badge Counselors.

To be certified as a Merit Badge Counselor in Westchester-Putnam Council for a particular merit badge, an adult must be qualified by job, profession, business, hobby or special training in that subject. Having earned a Merit Badge as a Scout or previously serving as a Merit Badge Counselor for a badge does not automatically qualify someone as a qualified Counselor.

All Merit Badge Counselors must have an understanding of their role in Scout advancement. The Council and District Advancement Committee are responsible for making the appropriate training available to Merit Badge Counselors. Training materials can be found on the this website.

Guide to Merit Badge Counseling 

Merit Badge Counselor Training 

Merit Badge Counselor Orientation

What's The Job of a Merit Badge Counselor?
The primary responsibility of the Merit Badge Counselor is to certify that each Scout who applies himself meets all the requirements for the particular merit badge. However, the larger job is as a coach who helps the Scout over the different hurdles of the requirements and making him aware of the deeper aspects of the subject from the Merit Badge Counselor's knowledge and experience.

Requirements For Merit Badge Counselors
To qualify as a valid Merit Badge Counselor in Westchester-Putnam Council, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be proficient in the merit badge subject by vocation or avocation.
  • Be able to work with Scout-age boys.
  • Be registered with the Boy Scouts of America
  • Complete and submit the WPC Merit Badge Counselor Form indicating which Merit badges you wish to counsel.
  • Merit Badge Counselors MUST complete Youth Protection Training and renew it every 24 months. Visit myscouting.org and sign in to On-Line training. Complete the YPT and electronically save the trained certificate and print a copy for submission with your application.

As a Merit Badge Counselor, you must agree to:

  • Follow the requirements of the merit badge, making no deletions or additions, ensuring that the advancement standards are fair and uniform for all Scouts.
  • Have a Scout and his buddy present at all instructional sessions.
  • Renew your registration annually if you plan to continue as a Merit Badge Counselor.

To Register As A Merit Badge Counselor
For administrative purposes, Boy Scouts of America requires all merit badge counselors to register with their local council, by submitting a BSA Adult Application, No. 28-501. If you are registering solely to serve as a merit badge counselor, there is no fee. You may also become a full member of the Boy Scouts of America as a member of your District Committee or of a local Unit. All paid, registered Scouters receive a subscription to Scouting magazine. This bimonthly publication will keep you updated on developments in the merit badge program and many other aspects of Scouting. If you are interested in becoming active with the Council or District please contact the Scout Service Center or to become active with a Scouting Unit in your community please visit www.BeAScout.org to find a Unit near you. Simply call for an application from Westchester-Putnam Council at (914) 773-1135 to have one mailed to you, or print out the form below.

BSA Adult Registration Form 

Merit Badge Counselor Information Form 

Merit Badge Counselors should send both of these completed forms to their appropriate District Advancement Chairman to begin processing.  Written acknowledgement of approval will be mailed to the counselor to inform them when they are permitted to begin counseling Scouts.


National Office Merit Badges Policies and Procedures
Article X. Program (Advancement) - Rules and Regulations
Clause 13. The responsibility for merit badges shall rest with the Merit Badge Counselor approved by the local council and district advancement committee. Merit Badge Counselors shall be registered adult members of the Boy Scouts of America. The Merit Badge Counselor shall prepare and qualify the youth members. There shall be no board of review. … No council, district, unit or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements.

Westchester-Putnam Council Merit Badge Policies and Procedures
The Advancement Committee of the Westchester-Putnam Council explicitly adheres to all Policies and Procedures set by the National Office. To assist Scouts and unit leaders with interpreting these policies and procedures, the following guidelines are offered to address questions that have been asked in the past:

  • A Merit Badge Counselor is an adult member who is registered for the current year through the National Office specifically as a Merit Badge Counselor, has been approved by the Council Advancement Committee through the District Advancement Committee for a particular merit badge or badges, and has agreed to adhere to all National and Westchester-Putnam Council policies and procedures.
  • All work on a merit badge must begin when the merit badge process, as described below, is started for each particular merit badge. This means that the Scout has a signed blue card and initiates contact with a Merit Badge Counselor.
  • Any registered Scout, regardless of rank, may work on any merit badge and receive the award when he earns it.
  • A Scout may work on multiple merit badges at the same time.
  • A Merit Badge Counselor may work with a Scout who is a relative.
  • Summer camp does not offer any exceptions to the Advancement policies or procedures.
  • Partial work, usually documented at summer camp, does not expire until the Scout's 18th birthday.
  • If the requirements change after a Scout has already started working on a merit badge, continue to use the requirements in effect when the Scout began, unless the SCOUT desires to use the new requirements. However, if he wishes to use the new requirements, he must use ALL of the new requirements. He may not pick and choose a selection from the old and new requirements.
  • The Merit Badge Counselor is responsible for making sure what the requirements are before certifying a Scout has earned a merit badge.
  • Merit Badge Counselors are encouraged to spot check work certified to them from partials, but Scouts should not be retested on these completed requirements.
  • The approval of a merit badge by a valid Merit Badge Counselor cannot be challenged. However, any failure to follow the National and Westchester-Putnam Council policies and procedures (as described here), especially with regard to requirements, will likely invalidate their position as a valid Merit Badge Counselors and possibly invalidate the approval for a badge in question. Andy challenges to merit badge validity should be immediately presented in writing to the appropriate District Advancement Chairman, who will investigate the matter.
  • Every possible opportunity shall be given to the Scout to properly earn the merit badge if invalidation occurs, within National policy.
  • Registered unit leaders certify that the Merit Badge Counselor is currently approved when they fill out Advancement Reports

Earning A Merit Badge
These are the steps that a Scout in Westchester-Putnam Council takes to earn a merit badge, as outlined in The Official Boy Scout Handbook:

1. The Scout gets a Merit Badge Application from his unit leader. This "blue card" must be signed by the unit leader on the front of the form indicating that the Scout has approval to work on the merit badge. The unit leader will sign the card again after the Scout has completed the requirements and the Merit Badge Counselor has signed the card. The unit leader will give the Scout the name of one or more qualified Merit Badge Counselors for the merit badge the Scout wants to earn.

2. The Scout contacts the Merit Badge Counselor, usually by telephone or email, and introduces himself. The Merit Badge Counselor should explain the requirements to the Scout. The Scout and his buddy then meet as appropriate with the Merit Badge Counselor until the Scout completes the badge's requirements.

Anytime a Merit Badge Counselor meets with a Scout, the Merit Badge Counselor must follow the Scout Buddy System

Without exception, a Scout must have a buddy with him at each meeting with a Merit Badge Counselor.

A Scout's buddy can be another Scout, a parent or guardian, a brother or sister, or a relative or friend.

Remember, the Scout brings the extra person, not the Merit Badge Counselor.

If the merit badge subject relates to a job or profession, then the Merit Badge Counselor's place of work is probably the best place to meet with the Scout. Subjects related to hobbies usually will be handled in the home. For a few subjects, coaching will happen in the field or where special equipment is at hand. Rowing, Rifle Shooting, Swimming and Astronomy are good examples. The Scout Buddy System must always be followed.

The Scout should bring a signed merit badge application to the first time meeting. There is space on the application to track the Scout's completion of requirements. A Scout has from the time he begins working on a merit badge until he reaches his 18th birthday to complete the merit badge. Any requirements approved by a Merit Badge Counselor can be used by the Scout with another Merit Badge Counselor towards completion of the badge before his 18th birthday.

3. The Scout is encouraged to get the merit badge pamphlet on his subject, although it is not required. He may be able to borrow a copy from his unit library or from a local public library. The Scout may also buy a copy from the Westchester-Putnam Council Scout Shop.

4. The Scout learns and does the things that the pamphlet describes as being required for the badge.

5. When he is ready, the Scout calls the Merit Badge Counselor again to make an appointment. He brings along the things he has made to meet the requirements or proof of what he has done such as a photograph of the project or adult certification. His unit leader might, for example, certify that a satisfactory bridge or tower has been built for Pioneering, or that the required meals were prepared for the Cooking merit badge. Remember the primary job, in addition to coaching, of the Merit Badge Counselor is to certify that the requirements have been met. When proof such as these are presented, the Merit Badge Counselor is encouraged to question the Scout, and necessary, to contact the adult or unit leader who signed the statement.

6. The number of counseling sessions depends on the difficulty of the subject and the preparation and ability of the Scout. When the Merit Badge Counselor is satisfied that the Scout has done what is required, the Merit Badge Counselor signs the Scout's merit badge card.

Each Merit Badge Counselor must maintain the exact standard as outlined in the merit badge requirements with nothing deleted and nothing added.  The Scout is expected to meet the requirements as stated - no more and no less. Furthermore, he is to do exactly what is stated. If it says "show or demonstrate," that is what he must do. Just telling about is not enough. The same thing holds true for such words as "make," "list," "in the field," and "collect, identify and label." On the other hand, the Merit Badge Counselor cannot require more of a Scout than is stated.

If the requirements as stated are the limits, what there is for the Merit Badge Counselor to do other than help the Scout with the specifics of these requirements? Actually, the Merit Badge Counselor can go far beyond them in the Merit Badge discussions with the Scout. He probably will welcome the Merit Badge Counselor's willingness to share with him the real world knowledge well beyond the requirements, and the Merit Badge Counselor will be making a real contribution to him by doing so. But it isn't required. That's the key. The Scout does not have to show his knowledge of those things beyond the requirements.

Many merit badge subjects can acquaint a Scout with the job opportunities in various fields. In these cases the merit badge work is a real exploration in an adult work experience, showing him whether or not he has the interest or ability along such lines. His activity can also show him what educational requirements a subject area has. The final choice - the selection of what he is going to do with himself in life - is up to one person; the Scout himself. However, he will appreciate the Merit Badge Counselor's help in showing him the relationship of his merit badge work to his life as he goes to school, into business or a trade, and on into adult life.

7. The Scout gives the signed form to his unit leader who will get the badge for him and will present it to him at an appropriate time such as a Court of Honor.

You may work with many Scouts each year as they earn merit badges.

The Merit Badge Counselor assists the unit leaders in the program of advancement which the unit leader helps each of his Scouts plan. Often, the unit leader will help the Scout select the merit badges he will earn for a particular award. Whether he does or not, he is always interested in the Scout's progress. You should feel free to discuss his work with the unit leader at any time.

Group Instruction of Merit Badges.
The question arises as to whether it is permissible to have Scouts earn merit badges in groups. Many subjects may be presented to groups of Scouts without defeating one of the purposes of the merit badge plan, working closely with a qualified adult.

Frequently the skills of a subject can be taught to several Scouts at one time. This has a time advantage for the Merit Badge Counselor. However, the completing of the requirements always must be done on an individual basis. Scouts may not qualify for merit badges by just being members of group that is instructed in skills. They must qualify by personally satisfying the Merit Badge Counselor that they can meet all the requirements.

The National Executive Board has approved this policy statement on group merit badge counseling:
To the fullest extent possible, the merit badge counseling relationship is a Merit Badge Counselor-Scout arrangement in which the Scout is not only judged on his performance of the requirements, but receives maximum benefit from the knowledge, skill, character and personal interest of his Merit Badge Counselor. Group instruction and orientation are encouraged where special facilities and expert personnel make this most practical, or when Scouts are dependent on only a few Merit Badge Counselors for assistance. However, this group experience should be followed by attention to each individual candidate's projects and his ability to fulfill all requirements.

In summary, a Merit Badge Counselor can coach more than one Scout at a time, but only one Scout at a time can satisfy the Merit Badge Counselor that he can meet the requirements.


Advertising Within the District
Scout units are constantly seeking program material for meetings. If the Merit Badge Counselor would like to expand interest in the Merit Badge Counselor's subject and to attract more Scouts to earn the merit badge, contact unit leaders at a District Roundtable and offer to come to a troop or team meeting to "sell the Merit Badge subject." All Scouts won't be interested in the subject so plan to present an exciting 10 to 15 minutes designed to capture the Merit Badge Counselor's audience then offer contact information to those Scouts who are really interested in working in the Merit Badge to start the process (as described above).


Merit Badge Pamphlets
The information in the pamphlet is probably familiar to the Merit Badge Counselor, but it will help the Merit Badge Counselor to know what the Scout is learning. The pamphlets are written for Scout-age boys. They also contain suggestions for projects that might give the Merit Badge Counselor helpful ideas. Be sure to use the most recent printing of the pamphlet. It will contain the latest requirements and information on the Merit Badge and the printing date is on each pamphlet. A complete list of merit badge pamphlets is printed on the inside back cover of all pamphlets with the latest revision date by each. By checking this list in any current year's pamphlet, the Merit Badge Counselor can find out whether a pamphlet is updated. Most pamphlets are reprinted each year, but the contents are not always revised. If the Merit Badge Counselor has suggestions for improvements in the requirements or pamphlet, please send these comments to the Boy Scout Division, Boy Scouts of America, 1325 Walnut Lane, Irving, TX 75038-3096.


Miscellaneous Information
The Westchester-Putnam Council Advancement Committee is responsible for approving Merit Badge Counselors, and delegates their appointment to the District Advancement Committees.

The Council Advancement Committee reviews the District merit badge lists and has a council list published each year.


Advancement in Summer Camp
Camp Merit Badge Counselors must be fully qualified in the subject they are counseling. Camp staff members who are qualified in the subject and are younger than age 18 may assist the Merit Badge Counselor with instruction. Each Merit Badge Counselor or camp staff member must maintain the exact standard as outlined in the merit badge requirements - nothing deleted, nothing added - and make himself or herself available at the time most convenient to the Scouts. Partial completion of merit badges should be credited to a Scout on the Application for Merit Badge and given to the unit leader at the end of the week.

Separate training materials have been prepared for Merit Badge Counseling at Summer Camp and are presented annually by the Council Advancement Committee.


Suggested Merit Badge Counseling Techniques
For the Scout to get the most benefit from the counseling session, he must feel welcome and relaxed. One way for the Merit Badge Counselor to put him at ease is to ask a simple question. For example, "How long have you been in Scouting?" or "What got you interested in the Astronomy merit badge?

Another way to put a Scout at ease is to show him some-thing related to the merit badge subject. For example, a Coin Collecting Merit Badge Counselor might show the Scout his coin collection. However, don't overwhelm the Scout. Remember, he is probably a beginner.

A third way to put a Scout at ease is to ask him to do a simple skill. For example, a Woodwork Merit Badge Counselor might say, "Would you sand this piece of wood while I get some tools ready?"

At the first meeting with the Scout, the Merit Badge Counselor should carefully review each requirement to be sure the Scout understands what he must do.

Before the Merit Badge Counselor signs the Scout's Application for Merit Badge, he must insist that the Scout do exactly what the requirements call for. If it says, "show or demonstrate," that is what he must do. Just telling isn't enough. The same things hold true for words such as "make," "list," "in the field," and "collect, identify, and label."

On the other hand, the Merit Badge Counselor cannot require more of a Scout than stated. You must not, for example, say, "I want to be sure you really know your stuff, so instead of the 20 items you need for your collection, you must have 30 to get my signature."
It is, of course, acceptable for a Scout on his own initiative to do more than the requirement calls for.

When reviewing the requirements with a Scout or testing him, the Merit Badge Counselor may find that the Scout needs help in learning a particular skill. One of the jobs of a Merit Badge Counselor is to teach the Scout the skills required.

The most effective way to teach a skill is to get the Scout to practice while learning.


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