How To Become A BSA Scout Vs Earning The Scout Rank

Thinking of joining Scouting? There have been some recent changes that you need to know about. It can be easy to confuse becoming a BSA Scout with earning the rank of Scout, but there are important distinctions that we’ll be discussing shortly.

How do you become a BSA Scout?

To officially join Scouting you must:

  1. Locate a council and troop in your area
  2. Complete a written application to the unit leader
  3. Pay a $33 membership fee

Upon completion, you will become a Scout. However, to earn the rank of ‘Scout’, there are now requirements, likely taking a few weeks to fulfill, that must be understood and completed by the new member.

“Back in my day…” Trust me, it makes me feel old to say, but when I had joined Scouting there was little difference between becoming a BSA Scout and earning the rank of Scout! I’ll fill you in on the differences between then vs now, and tell you everything you need to know to both become a BSA Scout and earn the rank of Scout. Stay tuned.

Become a BSA Scout

Becoming a BSA Scout is a simple matter of locating a council and troop in your area. You’ll need to register and pay a small fee, but the process of becoming a BSA Scout is fairly simple. Having been a Scout myself, I’d recommend the Scouting experience for young boys (and girls) looking to build confidence and experience the outdoors.

The path to registering for Scouting is fairly easy and can be done online. While becoming a scout is relatively inexpensive to start, this activity will get more expensive over time due to the frequent costs of equipment and camping supplies. For more information on how to join Scouting, here is a link to the official Scout website.

Previously, joining BSA Scouts and becoming the Scout rank had typically been done by new scouts within the same week. However, because of changes in the last five years, the Scouting rank has become more difficult to obtain. These changes are intended to instill a greater understanding of Scouting in new initiates, right off the bat.

When Did Scout Become A Rank

As of January 1, 2016, the requirements for the Scout rank changed. Now requiring extensive knowledge of Scouting lore and practices, a requirement which ones took less than a week to fulfill, will now likely take about a month. The badge for the Scout rank was also redesigned and is now gold instead of the traditional brown color.

Additionally, to obtain the Scout rank a new Scout must also participate in a Scoutmaster conference. These interviews can be nerve-racking for new scouts and were not listed as an original requirement.

Requirements for Scout Rank

Below you’ll see the current requirements for the Scout rank as well as the pre-2016 requirements. As you can tell, there is much more depth to the current requirements, which will likely delay any BSA Scout looking to earn the rank of Scout.

The Current Requirements

  1. Repeat from memory the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan. In your own words, explain their meaning.
    • Explain what Scout spirit is. Describe some ways you have shown Scout spirit by practicing the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan.
    • Demonstrate the Scout sign, salute, and handshake. Explain when they should be used.
    • Describe the First Class Scout badge and tell what each part stands for. Explain the significance of the First Class Scout badge.
    • Repeat from memory the Outdoor Code. In your own words, explain what the Outdoor Code means to you.
    • Repeat from memory the Pledge of Allegiance. In your own words, explain its meaning.
  2. After attending at least one troop meeting, do the following:
    • Describe how the Scouts in the troop provide its leadership.
    • Describe the four steps of Scout advancement.
    • Describe what the BSA Scout ranks are and how they are earned.
    • Describe what merit badges are and how they are earned.
  3. Explain the patrol method.
    • Describe the types of patrols that are used in your troop.
    • Become familiar with your patrol name, emblem, flag, and yell. Explain how these items create patrol spirit.
  4. Using a rope:
    • Show how to tie a square knot, two half-hitches, and a taut-line hitch. Explain how each knot is used.
    • Show the proper care of a rope by learning how to whip and fuse the ends of different kinds of rope.
  5. Demonstrate your knowledge of pocketknife safety.
  6. With your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet “How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parents Guide” and earn the Cyber Chip Award for your grade.
  7. Since joining the troop and while working on the Scout rank, participate in a Scoutmaster conference.

The Pre-2016 Requirements

  1. Meet age requirements: Be a boy who is 11 years old or one who has completed the fifth grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old, but is not yet 18 years old.
  2. Complete a Boy Scout application and health history signed by your parent or guardian.
  3. Find a Scout troop near your home. 
  4. Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.
  5. Demonstrate the Scout sign, salute, and handshake.
  6. Demonstrate tying the square knot (a joining knot).
  7. Understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath or Promise, Scout Law, motto, and slogan, and the Outdoor Code.
  8. Describe the Scout badge.
  9. Complete the Pamphlet Exercises. With your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet “How to Protect Your Children from Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide“.
  10. Participate in a Scoutmaster conference. Turn in your Boy Scout application and health history form signed by your parent or guardian, then participate in a Scoutmaster conference.

These changes may seem abrupt, but will better prepare a new scout for a long career in Scouting. Although it’s a drastic change, no evidence suggests that these new requirements have caused a drop in new members. By better preparing new scouts to become a part of their troop, although more difficult, I think these changes will have a positive effect.


Joining BSA Scouts can be an immensely rewarding and central experience in one’s childhood. Although new requirements make earning the Scout rank more difficult, joining Scouting remains the same simple process. For information on how to answer all of the new requirements for the Scout rank, check out my complete guide here.

Scouting is an ever-evolving organization and is always looking for better ways to allow youths to challenge themselves. These requirement changes will set new scouts in the right direction by having them start to learn more from day 1. Scouting is a family commitment, so if your child is thinking about becoming a scout, see the 5 things you should most be ready for here.


I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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