Merit badges are awards earned by youth members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), based on activities within an area of study by completing a list of periodically updated requirements. The purpose of the merit badge program is to allow Scouts to examine subjects to determine if they would like to further pursue them as a career or avocation. Originally, the program also introduced Scouts to the life skills of contacting an adult they hadn’t met before, arranging a meeting and then demonstrating their skills, similar to a job or college interview. Increasingly, though, merit badges are earned in a class setting at troop meetings and summer camps.
Each merit badge has a pamphlet published by the Boy Scouts of America associated with it; the pamphlet contains information on completing the requirements for the badge. There are designated merit badge counselors for each badge, and a Scout would meet with a counselor to demonstrate that he’s completed the requirements. The counselor would then ‘sign off’ on each one.
The award of a merit badge is represented by circular patch with an image representing the badge’s topic. The patches for the Eagle-required merit badges are distinguishable by the silver ring on the outside edge. Merit badges are displayed on a sash which can be worn with the Boy Scout uniform on formal occasions.