How Long It Takes To Become An Eagle Scout & What To Know


“Eagle Scout” is the highest rank a young person can reach in Scouting. In fact, only around 5% of all scouts who join ever reach the Eagle rank. As such, becoming an Eagle Scout is an exceptionally difficult challenge, even for scouts who can complete merit badges and rank requirements quickly!

How long does it typically take to become an Eagle Scout? On average, it’ll take most scouts 4 – 6 years to go from the newly-joined “Scout” rank to becoming an Eagle Scout. Since 10 is the minimum age that youths can join Scouts BSA, with most joining at age 11, this means that your typical scout won’t be receiving their Eagle Rank until they are 15, 16, or even 17 years old.

But why does it take so long to become an Eagle Scout? 

There are several reasons why becoming an Eagle Scout is so difficult, but the main reason is that there are literally hundreds of requirements that need to be completed. To earn Eagle, one must climb 7 Scouting ranks, earn 21 merit badges, complete an Eagle Service Project, become a strong leader within their troop, and prepare their final Eagle Scout Binder.

What To Know Before Trying to Earn The Eagle Scout Rank

Are you thinking about joining Scouting and maybe one day earning your Eagle rank? Hi, I’m Cole! As an Eagle Scout myself, I can tell you that while the path to reaching Scouting’s final rank won’t be easy, it will be 100% worthwhile! Throughout their years in Scouting, young people are given the opportunity to learn countless hard and soft skills such as:

  • Emergency First Aid + CPR
  • Fire Building and Safety
  • Proper Financial Planning
  • Clear Communication
  • Service Project Planning
  • Time Management
  • Family Togetherness
  • Fundraising and Sales
  • Leadership and Teamwork
  • Camping Safety and Setup
  • Blade Sharpening and Safety
  • Civic Responsibility
  • Health and Personal Fitness
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Personal Integrity
  • Camp and Home Cooking

And this list barely scratches the surface of what you’ll be learning in Scouting! These skills are actually just those that are required of Eagle Scouts, whereas you’ll also have the opportunity to explore your own interests in more detail throughout your Scouting journey! Obviously, gaining experience and mastering these skills will take time…

However, if you really wanted to, you could complete your Eagle in almost half the amount of time it usually takes. In fact, the fastest possible way to earn Eagle is through this 2-year timeline! Although it’s a very strict schedule to stick to, scouts have done it successfully before. Just be prepared for a lot of work to come your way if you want to do this! 

For those of you who aren’t in a rush to advance through your Scouting career, in the sections below I’ll be going over important facts about timelines, tips to rank-up quickly, and some hacks for earning badges! Now sit back, relax, and get ready to learn everything you need to know to go for the Eagle Rank! 🙂

What’s a Normal Timeline For Reaching Eagle Scout? 

As I mentioned earlier, most scouts spend 4 – 6 years in Scouting before earning their Eagle Rank. However, how long should a scout remain a Tenderfoot, or how many years should it take them before becoming a Life scout? The breakdown of this timeline might surprise you!

Generally speaking, one’s typical timeline in Scouting looks something like this: 

  • 1-2½ years to go from New Scout to First Class rank: During this time, scouts mainly complete rank requirements and learn useful survival skills. During this period, a scout’s goal should be to consistently attend troop meetings and learn everything in their Scouts BSA Handbook (Amazon referral link).
  • 2 years to go from First Class rank to Life rank: During this time, earning merit badges should be a scout’s top priority (6 badges are required for Star rank, and 5 are required for Life). A scout should also strive to become a leader within their troop.
  • About 1-1½  years to go from Life rank to Eagle Scout: During this time, completing their Eagle Scout project and leading their troop should be a scout’s main focus. They’ll also need to complete a total of 21 merit badges to be eligible for their Eagle rank.

Most scouts tend to choose this type of timeline because they have other things going on in their life besides Scouting. Involvement with clubs, sports, and academics can often take time away from troop functions and ranking up.

One’s lack of time for Scouting often worsens as a scout gets older and takes on more outside responsibilities. Therefore, it’s crucial to make the most of the years between earning your Tenderfoot and First Class rank. Often, if scouts don’t reach the First Class rank by their third year, it’s very unlikely that they’ll ever earn Eagle. 🙁

How Can I Advance More Quickly in Scouting?

Fortunately, there are a few tricks to avoid slumps and quickly rank up in Scouting! In fact, I’ve written an entire article on How to Quickly Advance Through Scouting, so check that out afterward if you want some expert-level tips and details.

To put it simply though, here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re trying to quickly earn your Eagle:

  1. Stay organized and always keep a plan of the next requirements you’ll be completing.
  2. Find a troop buddy to keep yourself accountable.
  3. Work on multiple merit badges at the same time.

These tips will be especially helpful for those of you who have a stricter timeline to follow (for example, if you’ve joined at an older age)! However, keep in mind that just knowing these tips won’t help — You’ll need to execute, too! Through a combination of focus, commitment, and action, you’ll be sure to move through the ranks of Scouting quickly. 🙂

How Can I Earn Enough Merit Badges For Eagle? 

Remember tip 3? Work on multiple merit badges at the same time! Outside of rank advancement, scouts must also complete 21 merit badges: 13 of these badges are Eagle-required, and the other 8 are up to you (for a complete list of Eagle Required Merit Badges, and their difficulty rankings, click here). 

Each merit badge contains hands-on and knowledge-related requirements that a Scout must complete. There are a wide variety of merit badges to choose from, in topics ranging from Chess to American Business, to Mammal Studies. As of 2021, there are a total of 135 merit badges available for scouts to earn.

Merit badges are usually done throughout the scout’s career with most scouts completing an average of 4 merit badges per year (fewer when starting out, and more as they approach eagle). I can personally attest that most merit badges take a while to complete, and many require you to learn, then demonstrate hands-on skills!

Which Eagle-Required Merit Badges Take the Longest to Complete?

Within the list of Eagle-required merit badges, some take longer to complete than others. In most cases, the badges that are the longest and most difficult are those that require you to track things over an extended period of time. Below are the Eagle-required merit badges with the most intense time commitments:

  • Personal Management: Track and record your actual income, expenses, and savings for 13 consecutive weeks
  • Personal Fitness: Outline and complete a comprehensive 12-week physical fitness program while logging your activity each day.
  • Citizenship in the Community: Volunteer at least 8 hours of your time by working for a charitable organization.
  • Family Life: Prepare a list of your regular chores and do them for 90 days. Keep a record of how often you do each of them.
  • Communication: Interview someone and attend a community meeting.
  • Camping: Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events.

Merit badges like Camping, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management, and Family Life are not too difficult to complete, task-wise, but have requirements that take a long time to finish. For example, carrying out a 12-week fitness regimen or sticking to a budget for 13 weeks can be challenging.

On the other hand, merit badges like Communication and Citizenship in the Community are tricky to complete because they require you to volunteer, go to community meetings, and interview actual people. I’d advise starting all these badges well before your 17th birthday so that you have enough time to finish them.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to complete merit badges one at a time. This means that you can simultaneously work on multiple merit badges at once! This is crucial if you want to earn your Eagle rank in a timely manner.

So, if there is a city-council meeting coming up, feel free to attend it to get your Citizenship in the Community requirement completed. That way, even if you don’t want to earn the rest of the badge right away, you’ll have that difficult requirement done for when you actually start trying to complete it. 🙂

How do I Complete Merit badges Quickly?

Speaking of completing merit badges, the all-time best way to complete merit badges quickly is to attend scout winter and summer camps. When attending these fun week-long camps, scouts can often complete 3-4 merit badges at a time! Personally, I earned over 30 merit badges and about 1/3 of them came from summer camps!

Earning merit badges outside of summer and winter camps is definitely possible and something you should do (especially if you set up merit badge counseling meetings the right way), but there’s no better way to quickly and thoroughly complete badges than at summer and winter camps. 

Which Merit Badges are the Easiest to Complete? 

Keep in mind that, not all merit badges are as difficult to complete as the Eagle-required merit badges. In fact, I’d say the Eagle-required merit badges are the most difficult merit badges you’ll need to complete. This means that the other 8 merit badges you choose could potentially be much easier!

So, you might be wondering “what are these mythical ‘easy’ merit badges?” Glad you asked! If you’re interested in easy badges, you should check out my article on the 3 Easiest Merit Badges That You Can Earn in 1 Day.

However, I do want to point out that although it may seem tempting to just complete 8 “easier” merit badges, I’d highly recommend trying out merit badges that you find interesting. The goal of Scouting shouldn’t just be to get your Eagle, but rather to expand your interests and develop yourself! 🙂

What’s the Point of Becoming an Eagle Scout? 

By now you might be thinking, “Becoming an Eagle Scout sounds insanely difficult. Why would I spend years of my life working to climb the ranks in Scouting?” Fantastic question! Below, I’ll be telling you about some of the non-obvious benefits of becoming an Eagle Scout. 

First and foremost, becoming an Eagle Scout is an achievement that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Personally, I’ve met other Eagles from all different walks of life, and bonded over our shared Scouting history.

When applying for college, Eagles are eligible for Eagle Scout-specific scholarships. Additionally, colleges love admitting Eagle Scouts! By writing about your Scouting journey on your Eagle Scout college application essays, you’ll have a strong edge over the competition and be much more likely to get accepted to your dream school.

Your Eagle rank can even help you get a leg up in the “real world!” By detailing the leadership and communication skills you learned as a scout in your Eagle Scout resume, you’ll be able to successfully stand out in job applications and interviews. I did this to land multiple job positions, and you can too! 😉

Most importantly though, the self-confidence and fulfillment you’ll gain from reaching Eagle will set you on the path towards accomplishing even greater feats throughout your life. Heck, more than two-thirds of all American astronauts had some involvement in Scouting, and many of them even reached Eagle!

What I’m trying to say here is that every bit of effort you put into earning your Eagle will pay off. While it might seem difficult and overwhelming at times, just know that you can do it if you keep pushing forward!

Conclusion 

I hope you’re now prepared to climb through the Scouting ranks and become an Eagle Scout! While 4-6 years may seem like a long time to focus on one goal, know that what you’re doing is worthwhile, and will help you for the rest of your life. 🙂

One thing that I didn’t have time to go into in this article was your Eagle Scout Project This is a project every potential-Eagle Scout must complete before they can get their Eagle Rank. If you’re interested in learning about the greatest obstacle separating scouts from Eagles, check out my article on Eagle Scout Project Planning!

That’s all for this article! Congrats on making it all the way to the end. I’d recommend bookmarking this page if you’re getting started with Scouting, as you’ll probably want to review it again later. Thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to seeing you back here at ScoutSmarts again soon and, until next time, I’m wishing you all the best on your Scouting journey! 

Cole

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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