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When must merit badges for Life rank be earned

Can the merit badges for Life rank be earned before Star rank? I’m being told otherwise but this doesn’t make a lot of sense — you could end up in a situation where rank advancement was impossible by earning the required badges too early.

Per the Guide to Advancement 4.2.0.1:

All requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle, except for those related to merit badges, must be fulfilled after the successful completion of a board of review for the previous rank.

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To be a little more complete and clear:

Scouts BSA Program

BSA Home > Programs > Scouts BSA > Advancement and Awards > Merit Badges

There is no time limit for starting and completing a merit badge, but all work must be completed by the time a Scout turns 18.

Guide to Advancement

BSA Home > Resources > Guide to Advancement 2019 > The Mechanics of Advancement > Mechanics of Advancement in Scouts BSA

Bill_W Note: This section of the guide pertains to the path to Eagle Scout. Some other Scouting programs require completion of some merit badge requirements without earning the merit badge.

4.2.0.1 Scouting Ranks and Advancement Age Requirements

Requirements for the Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks may be worked on simultaneously; however, these ranks must be earned in sequence. For information on boards of review for these ranks, see “Particulars for Tenderfoot Through Life Ranks” 8.0.2.0, especially point No. 7.

All requirements for Star, Life, and Eagle, except for those related to merit badges, must be fulfilled after the successful completion of a board of review for the previous rank.

per: Mechanics of Advancement in Scouts BSA

Yes. A scout can earn Merit Badges (MBs) in any order, in any combination, at any time.

Normally a scout starts earning MBs in their first summer camp well before they even make first class. Swimming and First-Aid are two classes I always recommend a 1st time summer camper sign up to attend. These two both help with advancement, the “fun” factor, and provide a sense of accomplishment/motivation at the next Court of Honor.

Tactically, it makes sense to pay attention to the rank requirements (required vs elective badges) to make sure they are at least close to having the needed MB’s for the next rank PRIOR to finishing the current rank, otherwise they may stall at a given rank pending MB requirements.

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