Which merit badges had Scouts rushing to counselors and Moms and Dads rushing to the sewing machine last year?
Here’s your answer. In January 2012, I presented a list of 2011’s most- and least-popular merit badges based on sales numbers from the Supply Division. This year’s numbers come from the BSA Program folks and are based not on sales but on the actual number earned, meaning they should be more accurate.
As you’d expect, the 12 most-earned merit badges from 2012 were all Eagle-required. Those merit badges provide extra motivation for Scouts to finish them on their journey through the ranks. But the badges that ranked 13 to 130 have some interesting takeaways:
Four lessons learned
- Newcomers Chess, Kayaking, Geocaching, and Robotics were all in the top 50, despite the fact that each is only a few years old.
- Most, but not all, of the badges in the top 30 are offered at council summer camps, meaning it’s easier for a Scout to earn one even if there isn’t a qualified counselor in his troop.
- The five rarest merit badges are Journalism, Stamp Collecting, American Labor, American Business, and Bugling. Search and Rescue was in 2012’s bottom five, but it shouldn’t really count because it didn’t debut until August of last year.
- STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) merit badges are hot, but so are the lower-tech ones like Archery, Climbing, and Wood Carving.
I also compared Program Group numbers from 2011 with Program Group numbers from 2012 to see which merit badges saw the biggest jump. I eliminated any merit badges introduced in 2011 or 2012, because those numbers are unfairly skewed.
Somewhat surprisingly, Textile and Theater merit badges each saw more than a 25 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.
And these nine also had double-digit gains: Animal Science, Drafting, Pulp and Paper, Astronomy, Insect Study, Cinematography, Inventing, Electronics, and Radio.
On the other end of the spectrum, the five with the biggest drop from 2011 to 2012 were: Coin Collecting, Scouting Heritage, Snow Sports, American Labor, and Skating. Each of those fell by between 14 percent and 31 percent.
The full list
Check out the full list and make your own conclusions. Badges in green are Eagle-required, while those in yellow are new (December 2009 or sooner):
Here you go, stat geeks!
As requested, here is the Excel spreadsheet including the number earned from 2008 to 2012. (Clicking will download the .xlsx file.) Enjoy! And please post any interesting findings in the comments below.
I’d love to hear how you interpret this list. Why are the popular ones popular? How can we get more Scouts interested in those that are, let’s say, “more rare”? Share your thoughts below.