Boy Scout Advancement Changes - 2016

Teen Boys Camping
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The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently introduced changes to the Boy Scout program which were effective on January 1, 2016.  The updates were made to help reach a vision set in BSA's 2011-2015 strategic plan.  The vision was, "Scouting’s programs are exciting, culturally relevant, and appealing to today’s youth, attracting them at an extraordinary rate and retaining them longer."  

The existing program was evaluated to determine what needed to change.

 As a result, the Cub Scout program was totally revamped.  Boy Scouting didn't need a complete overhaul, but there were five areas that saw changes. 

Scout Is Now a Rank

In the past, "Scout" was simply the joining badge of Boy Scouts.  Boys had just a few requirements to meet.  In fact, if a boy was a Cub Scout who had earned his Arrow of Light rank, he had basically completed all the joining requirements.  Someone who was brand new to Scouting could complete these joining requirements in a couple of weeks.

Now, Scout is an official Boy Scout rank like Second Class, Tenderfoot, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle.  The requirements to earn this rank are more difficult than the those to earn the Scout badge, and it will take new members longer to finish them.  

Here are a few of the differences.

  • Instead of simply understanding the Scout Oath, Scout Law, motto, and slogan and the Outdoor Code, boys will need to memorize them and explain what they mean.
  • Scouts will need to know how to tie three different knots instead of one.  They will show how to whip and fuse the ends of different kinds of rope.  
  • They'll have to demonstrate the safe use of a pocketknife.
  • Boys will be asked to share their understanding of the Boy Scout program by explaining advancement, ranks and Merit Badges.  They'll describe how a troop works, including troop leadership and the patrol method.

    Increased Physical Fitness Emphasis

    Obesity is a problem for some children and teens.  To help combat this, the new Boy Scout requirements have a greater focus on physical activity.  Tenderfoot and Eagle (through the required Physical Fitness Merit Badge) were previously the only ranks with a physical fitness requirement. 

    The Tenderfoot requirements are changing slightly.  Boys will still need to show improvement in certain activities after 30 days of practice.  Instead of showing this for a quarter mile walk or run, they'll need to improve their time for a one mile walk or run.  

    The Tenderfoot standing long jump requirement was replaced with the back-saver sit-and-reach test which measures flexibility.  The change that's likely to make most boys happy is the elimination of the pull up requirement.  

    Second Class and First Class now have a fitness component.  Both ranks ask boys to "be physically active at least 30 minutes each day for five days a week for four weeks" and to track their efforts.  They are to set a goal of including physical activity in their daily lives.

    Service Hours Increase

    In 2013, members of the Boy Scouts of America provided 17 million hours of service work.  In the past, boys were only required to complete 13 hours of service as they moved from Tenderfoot to Life.

      That requirement has increased to 18 hours.  Of course, this doesn't include the Eagle rank project which in 2014, averaged a whopping 156 hours per Eagle Scout.

    Here's how the old and new requirements compare.

    RankOld RequirementNew Requirement
    Second Class13
    First Class03


    *3 hours must be conservation-related

    Tell About Duty to God

    Boys in all ranks Tenderfoot and above will now tell how they have done their duty to God.  According to the FAQs for the new changes, "the idea is for the Scout to have a self-reflection about belief and reverence." Boys will share their thoughts, but leaders should not evaluate the Scout's duty to God.  There is no "standard" that the boy must meet--he simply tells his leaders how he has done his duty to God.

    Campout Requirements Increased

    On his way from Tenderfoot to First Class, a Boy Scout has to attend at least 10 troop or patrol activities (other than troop or patrol meetings).

     In the past, three of these outings had to be campouts.  The new requirements have doubled that number to six.   The requirements are broken down like this:

    To earn Tenderfoot, a boy must camp at least one night.  This didn't change.

    To earn Second Class, a boy must participate in 5 troop or patrol activities since joining the troop, and 3 of those must include overnight camping.  Previously, only 2 needed to be campouts.

    To earn First Class, a boy must participate in 10 troop or patrol activities since joining the troop, and 6 of those must include overnight camping.  Prior to the change, only 3 events needed to be campouts.

    Click here to see a document comparing the old requirements to the new ones.