Learning new skills is fun—and being recognized for it is even better! Advancement is one of the primary methods which Scouting uses to help young men and women grow. The BSA Advancement Policies guide states “A fundamental principle of advancement in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing is the growth a young person achieves as a result of his/her participation in his/her unit program.”

By definition, advancement is the process by which youth members of the Boy Scouts of America progress from rank to rank in the Scouting program. It’s important to remember that advancement is simply a means to an end and not an end in itself. Everything done to advance and earn awards should be designed to help young people have an exciting and meaningful experience.

Advancement operates differently in each of the three major Scouting programs: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturing. In Cub Scouts, boys are organized into “dens” based on their grade. As they grow older, they complete sets of requirements each year called “adventures” in order to earn the ranks of Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, and finally the Arrow of Light Award. To learn more about Cub Scout advancement, visit the national BSA website.

Scouts BSA are not divided into sub-groups by grade; instead, every Scout works on the same rank sequence: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle. Scouts BSA can also earn over 130 merit badges, each of which focuses on a different area of study or career: from Archery to Nuclear Science to Wilderness Survival. To learn more about Scouts BSA advancement, visit the national BSA website.

Like Scouts BSA, Venturers also have the opportunity to earn ranks as they plan and carry out activities with their crew. The Venturing ranks (Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder, and Summit) focus on adventure, leadership, personal growth, and service—allowing Venturers to mark their progress as they progress through the program. Instead of merit badges, Venturing has specialty awards that encourage Venturers to dive more deeply into areas such as the outdoors (Ranger), sports (Quest), and their faith (TRUST). To learn more about Venturing advancement, visit the national Venturing website.