Merit Badge Guide - Essentials for Merit Badge Counselors

Golden Gate Area Council thanks you for volunteering as a Merit Badge Counselor (MBC) and for sharing your time and talents with the scouts of our Council. As a counselor, you can teach skills and introduce concepts that may change the course of a boy’s or girl’s life. Many scouts have been guided to their chosen careers or discovered lifelong hobbies through the BSA merit badge program. This opportunity would not exist without adult volunteers giving of their knowledge and time selflessly to help shape the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you for your support.


To be a Merit Badge Counselor (MBC) you must be at least 21 years of age and complete the following documentation. Registration is done online.

  • BSA Adult Application form. Use Position Code ’42’ – Merit Badge Counselor. This is a district position; a unit signature is not required. Adult Application form
  • YPT certificate valid through Dec 31, 2022. Going forward, your YPT certificate must be valid for the duration of your MBC registration. More information
  • Merit Badge Counselor Information form –  Form #34405
  • Merit Badge Training – Training is required for all counselors. It’s available online at Merit Badge Counselor Training .
  • AB 506 Training certificate
  • LiveScan – Confirmation of a LiveScan background check.

Submit your application to the Council Advancement Committee when you have a complete set of documentation.

Note: The Citizenship in Society Merit Badge has a separate procedure. Contact your District Advancement Chair for more information.

Completing the Merit Badge Counselor Information Form

Use this form to provide contact information for our Council’s Merit Badge Counselor list and explain what experience you have that relates to the merit badge(s) you choose to counsel.

  • Read the sections regarding qualifications and what you agree to.
  • Fill out all required contact information.
  • List the merit badges in the left column and note whether you are adding (A) or dropping (D) the merit badges.
    Note: We encourage MBCs to focus on counseling a core set of Merit Badges – 8 or so works.
  • For each badge, you must list qualifications to support your request. The electronic fillable form allows you to enter a limited explanation on the front. If you need more space, use the back of the paper or additional paper. Providing more information will enable us to process your application in a timely manner. Failure to provide any explanation of qualifications may result in delays or return of the application.

Certain Merit Badges require additional qualifications. They are summarized below. You can find additional information in Section 7 of the Guide to Advancement. Be sure to include copies of any requested paperwork.

How to register

Watch the video for a step by step guide through the steps you need to  follow. There’s also a detailed guide to completing the Information Form below. When you’re ready, follow the link below to get started. 

Updating Badges or Certificates

For current Merit Badge Counselors who want to change the merit badges they counsel or who need to upload a certificate – follow the link below. In the section ‘What do you want to do today’, click on the arrowhead to display the choices you can see in the image here.

Drop down message for merit badge counselors to select a choice

Merit Badges requiring additional qualifications

  • Rifle and Shotgun Shooting – All instruction involving any handling of firearms or live ammunition must be supervised by a certified BSA National Camp School shooting sports director, or NRA Rifle/Shotgun Shooting Instructor or Coach. Shooting must be supervised by an NRA-certified Range Safety Officer. Merit badge counselors who are not certified will not be able to handle firearms, live ammunition or conduct shooting without assistance from certified personnel. Reference Guide to Safe Scouting and BSA National Shooting Sports Manual no. 30931.
  • Archery – Archery activities must be supervised by a BSA National Camping School– trained shooting sports director or USA Archery or National Field Archery Association instructor, or by someone who has been trained by one of the three; or alternatively, the activities may be supervised by someone with at least Level 1 training in the operation of an archery range from USA Archery, NFAA, or an equivalent.
  • Water Sports – Canoeing, Kayaking, Lifesaving, Rowing, Scuba Diving, Swimming, and Whitewater – Merit badge counselors must have current Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training (available online through Please attach a copy of your certifications to the application.
  • Climbing – All climbing, belaying, and rappelling exercises and activities must be supervised by a rock climbing instructor who is a mature and conscientious adult at least 21 years old, and who is trained in BSA Climb On Safely and understands the risks inherent to these activities. Training as a BSA climbing Level 2 Instructor is highly recommended. Someone with certification in First Aid/CPR/AED from the American Red Cross (or equivalent) must be present at these activities.
  • Lifesaving – Demonstrations or activities in or on the water must be supervised by an adult at  least 21 years old with  certification in  Red  Cross First  Aid/CPR/AED or equivalent, and also as BSA Lifeguard or Aquatics Instructor or equivalent.
  • Scuba Diving – All phases of SCUBA instruction (classroom, pool and open-water training) must be conducted by a recreational diving instructor in good standing with a scuba agency recognized by the Boy Scouts of America (PADI, NAUI, SSI, IDEA, PDIC, or SDI, or be a member of the WRSTC). Merit badge counselors who are not certified will not be able to conduct instruction. Reference Guide to Safe Scouting BSA Scuba Policy.

Merit Badge Counselor Renewal

Update for 2023 renewal coming in September.

Virtual Merit Badges

Scouts may only take Merit Badge classes from those Out of Council sources that are listed in the
‘Approved Out of Council Merit Badge Classes’ section below.

“With the rise of virtual merit badge classes, a world of new opportunities has opened up for Scouts. They can earn all kinds of unusual merit badges on all kinds of schedules, well beyond those available through in-person meetings with counselors in their home council.
However, with this new freedom come renewed responsibilities—for the Scout, for the Merit Badge Counselor, and for the Unit Leader—to ensure that all BSA policies and procedures are still being followed.”

Advancement News, July-August 2022

The following extracts from the Guide to Advancement (GTA) provide guidance.

GTA topic The Scout, the Unit Leader, and the Merit Badge Counselor

“. . . before working with a counselor or attending a group or virtual merit badge opportunity, a Scout should meet with his or her unit leader.

  • While this does not mean the merit badge will be denied if they do not, it does mean that, if at all possible, the Scout and scoutmaster should discuss in advance the merit badge and the presentation environment (in-person/online, group/individual, etc.).
  • Counselors . . . Have you asked your Scout contact for a ‘Blue Card’ before starting?

GTA topic – Group Instruction

  • The Unit leader should investigate to see if there is any question as to the quality of the class, or if a Scout will be required to “actually and personally” fulfill all the requirements.
  • Counselors should be prepared to explain their procedure for completing the badge.

GTA topic – MB opportunities with Non-Scouting Organizations or Businesses

  • There may be opportunities for Scouts to earn merit badges through participation in activities presented by organizations or businesses not affiliated with the BSA. Zoos, museums, recreation centers, major home improvement stores, and even individuals may be involved.
  • Outside organizations and businesses are not allowed to present classes, events, or similar activities that are largely for the purpose of offering merit badges—even if no fee is involved—without approval from the (organization’s) local council. A written agreement should be involved in approving such a merit badge opportunity. The council must assure compliance with applicable BSA policies and procedures, including those related to Youth Protection and safety, National Council consent to use protected brand images, and the merit badge counseling and approval process.
  • However, because there are issues beyond advancement, the Scout executive should be the one to grant final permission. Council approval should not be granted if it is believed merit badge opportunities will generate a profit or revenue that is surplus to recovering costs related to presenting the opportunity.

GTA topic Technology-Based Tools in Advancement

Procedures for using web-based tools in advancement are established by the council advancement committee in compliance with national procedures.

  • Consider how to confirm with their home councils that counselors operating online are registered and approved for the merit badges they counsel.

GGAC procedures

  • There are merit badge programs advertised online that are available to our Scouts. As we become aware of them, we contact the council affiliated to check on the sponsor’s qualifications. The list of those we have contacted and vetted appear in the next section.
  • Not included in this are district or council programs or internal unit programs. This also does not include a counselor working with a scout they have a direct connection with.
  • Any GGAC Merit Badge counselor must receive authorization from the Council Advancement Committee before offering an online merit badge opportunity.
  • If an out of council MBC  wishes to be added to the list they can request that HERE. Scoutmasters should verify inclusion on this list prior to signing a blue card.

Approved Out of Council Merit Badge Classes

Citizenship in Society

We are updating this section and expect to publish in early August.


Sea Scouts




Shooting Sport


Scouting for Food

Order of the Arrow