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.

Effective August 1, 2023, BSA started to charge a $25 annual fee to register as a Merit Badge Counselor for those who are not already registered as a BSA leader. This fee applies to those who intend to be Merit Badge Counselors only. For those who intend to participate in Troop activities such as meetings and camping, register as a Unit Leader first.


After your Unit Leader registration has been processed, click on the ‘Application Process’ button below and select “I wish to become a Merit Badge Counselor” from the “What do you want to do today” box. You will not be charged the $25 fee, it’s covered in your Unit Leader registration. 


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. 
  • Merit Badge Selection:  During the application process, you will be asked to select the Merit Badges you wish to counsel. We ask new counselors to sign up for no more that 8 Merit badges. You will also be asked what your qualifications are.
  • 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.
  • Compliance Requirements: You will be asked to confirm if you are already a BSA registered volunteer – that is, your certificates are current. If you are not registered, you will need to upload your YPT, State Mandated Reporter Certificates (valid to December 31, 2023), and your LiveScan receipt.

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.

Merit Badges requiring additional qualifications

  • Citizenship in Society – Requires Citizenship in Society GGAC Training program and interview verification form.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Canoeing, Kayaking, Lifesaving, Motor Boating, Small Boat Sailing, Rowing, Scuba Diving, Swimming, Water Sports, 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.
  • Canoeing. Those supervising canoeing activities must have either BSA Aquatics Instructor or Canoeing Instructor certification from the American Canoe Association, American Red Cross, or equivalent
  • Kayaking. Those supervising kayaking activities must have formal training in kayaking and paddle craft instruction, evidenced by either BSA Aquatics Instructor or Paddle Craft Safety Instructor certification, or kayaking instructor certification from the American Canoe Association, British Canoe Union, or American Red Cross, or equivalent
  • Motor Boating. Motor boating activities must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult, age 21 or older. Appropriate credentials include current or previous certification by an organization (such as the National Safe Boating Council, the United States Power Squadrons, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or the US Powerboating component of US Sailing) that meets the voluntary National On-Water Standards for Powerboating or the NASBLA national boating education standards for powerboating
  • Small Boat Sailing. They must be mature and conscientious adults age 21 or older. Appropriate credentials include instructor certification with a recognized sailing agency or school, US Sailing, or the American Sailing Association for sailing experience with different hull types including the rig being used for instruction
  • Whitewater. Those supervising whitewater activities must be certified as whitewater canoeing or kayaking instructors by the American Canoe Association or have equivalent certification, training, or expertise.
  • 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.

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

Qualified 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.


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