HOME—US Scouting—Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America (BSA)
Here are the basics about the Boy Scouts of America:
- Corporate name is Boy Scouts of America, often abbreviated to BSA
- Founded on 8 February 1910, in Washington, DC, by Chicago publisher William Boyce
- Chartered by the US Congress in 1916 (a few other youth programs have congressional charters, including the Civil Air Patrol , Girl Scouts of the USA , Future Farmers of America , the Boys & Girls Clubs of America 
- Headquarters in Irving, Texas (near Dallas)
- The BSA is the USA's only Scouting organization recognized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (many countries have several Scouting programs).
- The BSA actually provides the Scouting program to four countries: the US plus the Pacific island nations of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, all three of which are served by Hawaii's Aloha Council.
- The BSA is divided into 261 local Councils, though this number can fluctuate from year to year. The trend for many decades has been toward consolidation of Councils.
- The BSA and its local Councils employ about 2600 full-time professional staff (as of 2018).
- Based on the 2018 census by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (their most recent census), the BSA is the third largest Scouting organization in the world (the largest by far is Indonesia [25 million members], then India [3.6 million], then the US [2.9 million]).
- Membership—As of 12/31/2019, total youth membership in both traditional and non-traditional programs was 2.3 million. Overall youth membership declined 9.4% in 2019 (from 2 499 349 to 2 263 911).
The BSA offers four traditional Scouting programs based on grade or age (Cub Scouts, Scouts, Sea Scouts, & Venturers), plus three non-traditional subsidiaries (Exploring, Learning for Life, & STEM Scouts). Membership numbers are from the 2019 BSA Annual Report to Congress (released each year after the BSA Annual Meeting in late May). Note that the annual report is getting progressively lighter on details.
Cub Scouts BSA (boys and girls, Kindergarten through grade 5)
- Members in Kindergarten (or age 5) are called Lions or Lion Cub Scouts, and work on the Lion rank. This new program went nationwide as of mid-2018. Note that the new Lion rank is unrelated to the former Cub Scout Lion rank (which used to come after Bear and was discontinued in 1967).
- Members in grade 1 (or age 6) are now called Tigers or Tiger Cub Scouts (formerly Tiger Cubs), and work on the Tiger rank.
- Members in grade 2 (or age 7) are called Wolves or Wolf Cub Scouts, and work on the Wolf rank.
- Members in grade 3 (or age 8) are called Bears or Bear Cub Scouts, and work on the Bear rank.
- Members in grade 4 (or age 9) are called Webelos Scouts, and work on the Webelos rank. [Note that the made-up word Webelos always has the 's'; the term 'Webelo' is incorrect.]
- Members in grade 5 (or age 10) are also called Webelos Scouts, and work on the Arrow of Light award. Because of the Arrow of Light award, fifth-grade Webelos are often unofficially called "AOL" Scouts, or their den is referred to as an "AOL" den.
- Webelos Scouts usually graduate into a Scout troop around February of grade 5.
- The overall Cub Scout program is family-centered, adult-run, and offers minimal camping opportunites.
- Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for certain assistant positions). The adult leader of the pack is the Cubmaster, and each den is led by an adult Den Leader. Wolf, Bear, and Webelos dens often also have a Scout as den chief to assist the den leader.
- The only youth leadership position is Denner, rotated monthly among the den members, which consists mostly of helping the Den Leader and making a den report at the monthly pack meeting.
Scouts BSA (boys and girls, age about 10-1/2 until 18)
- This is traditional Scouting, formerly 'Boy Scouting', now with boy troops and girl troops.
- Scouts work on seven ranks: Scout (new rank as of 2016), Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle. Eagle Scouts can also earn Eagle Palms, but these are not ranks.
- [The 'Scout' rank, with significantly expanded requirements, replaced the former 'Scout Badge', which represented the joining requirements and was never a rank.]
- The overall Scout program is mostly youth-run with adults providing guidance and training, and is strongly oriented toward camping and the outdoors.
- At about age 14, a Scout can choose to remain in the troop or transfer to a Sea Scout ship or Venturing crew. Scouts age 14 and up have sometimes worn special insignia to show their 'senior' status, but there is no such insignia at present.
- Adult troop leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for Assistant Scoutmasters). The adult leader of the troop is the Scoutmaster.
- The youth leader of the troop is the elected Senior Patrol Leader, and each patrol is led by an elected youth Patrol Leader.
Sea Scouts BSA (coed, age about 14 until 21)
- Started as Sea Scouting in 1912, it changed its name to Sea Exploring in 1949, then back to Sea Scouting in 1998. It was part of the Venturing program from 1998 to 2016, and now has become an independent program section.
- Besides being able to earn the Eagle award, Sea Scouts have their own advancement program, culminating with the Quartermaster award.
- Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21. The adult leader is called the Skipper, and adult assistants are called Mates.
- The key youth leader of a Sea Scout ship is the elected Boatswain.
- Sea Scout ships can be male-youth only, female-youth only, or coed.
- Membership—See 'Venturing' below for combined Venturing & Sea Scout numbers (BSA prefers not to report these numbers separately even though Sea Scouts has been a separate program section since 2016). BSA is considering moving Sea Scouting into its non-traditional Exploring program (see below) as an aquatic-focused career path.
- Sea Scout Advancement, Age Requirements, Highest Awards
Venturing BSA (coed, age about 14 until 21)
- Venturing replaced the former Exploring program in 1998; its coed crews focus on six experience areas: Citizenship, Leadership, Fitness, Social, Outdoor, and Service.
- The former career-awareness Exploring program is now part of Learning for Life (see below).
- Besides being able to earn the Eagle award, Venturers have their own awards system, culminating with the Summit Award (which replaced the Venturing Silver Award in 2014).
- BSA's Venturing program is unusual compared to the equivalent programs in most other countries because high-school-aged Americans can choose to remain in a Scout troop all the way to age 18; hence the BSA's Venturing and Sea Scout programs are optional.
- There is no BSA program equivalent to the Rover programs available in some countries (for those over age 21).
- Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21. The adult leader is called the Venturing Advisor.
- The key youth leader of a Venturing crew is the elected crew President.
- Venturing crews can be male-youth only, female-youth only, or coed.
- Membership—As of 12/31/2019, combined Venturing and Sea Scouting youth membership totaled 42 571, a 23% (-12 530) decline during 2019, on top of huge losses of 37% (-32 726) during 2018 and 36% (-48 802) during 2017. (BSA is still reporting Venturing and Sea Scouting numbers together, and both programs have been in precipitous decline, losing 81% of their membership since the end of 2012 when membership was 219 453).
- Venturer Advancement, Age Requirements, Highest Awards
Age Requirements/Advancement/Highest Awards—
Last Revision to This Page: 19 February 2021
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