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.

GGAC is providing a one step portal where you will be able to register as a Merit Badge Counselor, change the Merit Badges you counsel, update certifications, drop your registration as a Merit Badge Counselor, and communicate with your District advancement team regarding merit badge issues.

Thank you for your support.


To be a Merit Badge Counselor (MBC) you must be at least 18 years of age (there are some exceptions) and complete the following documentation. You must submit this application to become a Merit Badge Counselor even if you are already registered as an adult leader. Registration is done online.

  • BSA Adult Application . During the application process, you will be asked to choose your District and then follow the link.
    (It looks like this non-functioning example: )
    You do have to click it and then proceed to complete the online form which will appear in a new tab. After completion, return to this page to continue process. 
  • YPT certificate valid through Dec 31, 2023. Going forward, your YPT certificate must be valid for the duration of your MBC registration. More information
  • Merit Badge Counselor Information form:  During the application process, you will be able to download this form. Fill it out following the directions in the section below and upload it when prompted. Please use only the form provided, as the BSA Application form does change over time, and old versions cannot be accepted.
  • Merit Badge Training – Training is required for all counselors. It’s available online. Login to My.Scouting Click on the Menu icon, select Training from the menu, and then select Scouts BSA.
  • 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. If you are applying to be a Counselor for  Rifle & Shotgun, Archery, any Water Sport, Climbing. Lifesaving, or Scuba Diving – check the requirements listed below.

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. 

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.

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

The renewal of Merit Badge Counselors for 2023 is being handled by District Chairs.

Virtual Merit Badges

Scouts may earn a Merit Badge from other council sources provided their unit leader confirms that the counselor has been qualified and approved for that particular merit badge by the counselor’s home council and that their Youth Protection Training is current. Qualified Out of Council training Counselors in California councils also need  an AB506 Certificate confirming they have successfully completed that Qualified Out of Council training course and LiveScan.

The Golden Gate Area Council Advancement team has vetted the sites listed in the ‘Qualified Out of Council Merit Badge Classes’ section below.

BSA’s Guide to Advancement references

Approved Out of Council Merit Badge Classes

How to verify an out of Council Merit Badge Counselor.

First, try to connect the Scout and counselor in Scoutbook. If that is successful, the counselor is registered and qualified. If unsuccessful, go to the counselor’s home council and search for their Advancement Administrators. Most will have an email address for either the Council Advancement Committee or Professional Advisor. Send an email asking if the counselor has been registered and qualified for the merit badge(s) in question and the status of their Youth Protection Training. Ask California councils if the counselor has completed AB506 training and LiveScan. The unit leader’s “blue card” signature verifies their counselor credentials verification.


Sea Scouts




Shooting Sport


Scouting for Food

Order of the Arrow

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