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2018 Merit Badge Rankings

First Aid merit badge extended its reign atop the charts in 2018, while the Exploration, Animation and Bugling merit badges each saw double-digit gains in popularity.

And how’s this for unusual: The exact same number of Scouts earned the Search and Rescue merit badge in 2017 and 2018: 10,107. Those are just three of the dozens of storylines one can glean from the 2018 merit badge data, released last week by the Boy Scouts of America. Today, let’s chop, sort and digest those numbers every which way. As always, the goal is to find trends that are interesting and informative. At the end of this post, I’ll include the raw numbers so you can do your own spreadsheet wizardry. Leave a comment with anything cool you’re able to find.

The Top 10

As usual, every merit badge on this list is required to earn the Eagle Scout award, Scouting’s highest honor. It makes sense that these would rank highly; they’re the badges the BSA deems most important.

Rank Merit Badge 2018 earned
1 First Aid         69,565
2 Swimming         62,796
3 Citizenship in the World         55,843
4 Environmental Science         54,237
5 Citizenship in the Nation         52,944
6 Communication         51,541
7 Cooking         50,185
8 Camping         49,893
9 Citizenship in the Community         49,863
10 Personal Fitness         49,600

The Alternative Top 10

What happens when we exclude Eagle-required merit badges from the rankings? When given the choice to earn any of the 120 non-Eagle-required merit badges, which do Scouts prefer? I think you’ll find a common theme with these 10: They’re offered at most summer camps, giving Scouts an excellent opportunity to complete them.

Rank Merit Badge 2018 earned
1 Fingerprinting        38,239
2 Rifle Shooting        37,695
3 Archery        34,487
4 Leatherwork        33,740
5 Wood Carving        31,910
6 Kayaking        31,362
7 Wilderness Survival        29,392
8 Chess        28,260
9 Canoeing        26,094
10 Fishing        24,688

No matter what your interests it remains that BSA merit badges are exciting and fun to work toward and earn. Encourage your boys to go beyond the ordinary and discover new opportunities that await them with 137 merit badges to choose from.

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