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Boy Scout service hour requirements to increase beginning next year

Boy Scouts, who take an Oath “to help other people at all times,” will soon be required to do so at nearly every rank.

New requirements that take effect Jan. 1, 2016, include service hours at Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. (That’s every rank but the Scout rank.)

You can see the full Boy Scout service hour requirements below, but here are the basics: Scouts must complete one hour of service for Tenderfoot, two hours for Second Class and three hours for First Class. The total hours for Star and Life remain the same — six hours each. At least three of the six hours for Life must be conservation-related; this reflects an increased emphasis on environmental stewardship.

The Eagle Scout project, which has no minimum or maximum number of service hours, remains unchanged.

This is the latest in a series of posts where I look at changes coming to Boy Scouting next year. I’ve already blogged about Scout becoming its own rank and Boy Scouts telling about their duty to God at each rank. You can read more about changes to Boy Scouting (and, for that matter, Cub Scouting and Venturing, on the Program Updates page.)

Today, let’s look at service hours.

Beginning in 2016, a young man who advances from Scout to Eagle Scout will complete at least 18 hours of service — not including those hours spent on his Eagle Scout service project. That’s five more hours than before.

I suspect many Boy Scouts won’t even notice this change. Most exceed 18 hours of service over their Scouting careers without thinking about it.

Note that service hours aren’t cumulative. In other words, the hour of service used for Tenderfoot only counts toward Tenderfoot. A Scout cannot, for example, also count that hour as one of the two he needs for Second Class.

New Boy Scout service requirements

Tenderfoot, requirement 7b: One hour of service (up from zero)

Participate in a total of one hour of service in one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster. Explain how your service to others relates to the Scout slogan and Scout motto.

Second Class,requirement 8e: Two hours of service (up from one)

Participate in two hours of service through one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster. Tell how your service to others relates to the Scout Oath.

First Class, requirement 9d: Three hours of service (up from zero)

Participate in three hours of service through one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster. The project(s) must not be the same service project(s) used for Tenderfoot requirement 7b and Second Class requirement 8e. Explain how your service to others relates to the Scout Law.

Star, requirement 4: Six hours of service (same as before)

While a First Class Scout, participate in six hours of service through one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster.

Life, requirement 4: Six hours of service, at least three of which are conservation-related (changed from six hours, period)

While a Star Scout, participate in six hours of service through one or more service projects approved by your Scoutmaster. At least three hours of this service must be conservation-related.

Eagle Scout: The Eagle Scout service project (same as before)

While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts of America.)

57 Comments on Boy Scout service hour requirements to increase beginning next year

  1. Bob Berkheiser // November 10, 2015 at 8:15 am // Reply

    Can a scout do six hours of service and it count for TF, SC, and FC or must they wait until they earn the rank to do the next ranks service hours?

    • Yes and no. You could do six hours of service and have it count towards T-2-1, provided they’re from different projects.

      The requirements for Tenderfoot and Second Class do not say that they have to be separate projects. So, you could do 3 hours of service on a project and count one of those hours towards Tenderfoot and the other 2 hours towards Second Class.

      For First Class, the requirement says that the 3 hours you need there must be from a different project than the project(s) you did for Tenderfoot and Second Class.

      It’s explained in the Boy Scout Requirements FAQs at scouting.org/programupdates.

  2. Shouldn’t the requirement be phrased so that the service is rendered within the rank, like Star and Life: “While a Star Scout, participate in ….” Otherwise, because Tenderfoot through First Class can be worked concurrently, the service hours could be completed with one project for all ranks. As worded, it seems they could be done concurrently.

    • That’s because they can be done concurrently for T-2-1. This is directly addressed in the Boy Scouts requirements FAQs at scouting.org/programupdates

      You could do 3 hours of service and have one hour count towards Tenderfoot and two hours count towards Second Class.

      • Bryan Wendell // November 12, 2015 at 9:17 am // Reply

        From the FAQs…

        Q. Shouldn’t Second Class requirement 8e include the statement, “The project(s) must not be the same service project(s) used for Tenderfoot requirement 7b”?
        A. No. The same service project could be used to qualify for service hours for both Tenderfoot and Second Class, but the hours counted for Second Class must be in addition to those counted for Tenderfoot rank.

    • BP Palmateer // November 10, 2015 at 8:58 am // Reply

      The first class requirement 9d (as stated in Bryan’s posting, above) specifically states, “The project(s) must not be the same service project(s) used for Tenderfoot requirement 7b and Second Class requirement 8e.”

      • Thanks, Matt!

  3. Are there plans for a new Scout handbook to be published with the changes? Historically, changes are not easily communicated because the handbook never changes. Many leaders do not refer to the separate Boy Scouts Requirements since they think if a boy just purchased a handbook, it would be current.

    • I heard there is a new handbook coming out.

    • Bryan Wendell // November 10, 2015 at 8:49 am // Reply

      These requirements will be reflected in the new Boy Scout Handbook, due out in January.

  4. Jeff Richardson // November 10, 2015 at 8:40 am // Reply

    Depends on how the handbook will read. If it says while a TF,SC, or FC you have to be that rank and earn those service hrs during that time unless the SM will give you credit instead,

    • The requirements as they will be printed in the handbook are already released and they are as Bryan placed in his post at the top of the page.

  5. I love the idea of service hours throughout the Scouting experience. I have one question which is how does this effect my son’s current progress. Do the changes to the rank requirements effect Scouts who have already completed Tenderfoot and are in the process of completing Second Class?

    • Notes on how to transition to the new requirements are available here: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/program_update/pdf/Transitioning_New_Requirements_2016.pdf

    • No, no effect at all. The transition allows for your son to complete Tenderfoot-Second Class-First Class all using the current requirements (assuming he has not advanced to First Class by December 31, 2015), then switching over to the new requirements once First Class is completed. If, by December 31, 2016, he has not yet completed First Class, he would then be required to continue using the new requirements, with any matching requirements already counted (you wouldn’t have to repeat anything you’ve already done).

      For purposes of the transition, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class are being treated as one rank.

  6. I’m curious about how other troops handle service the boys do that is NOT a troop-organized activity. The requirements say “Scoutmaster-approved.” Our Scoutmaster generally will approve a project if the Scout is going to wear his uniform, thus representing Boy Scouts. While community service that the boys do in other ways (through church, for example) is great and to be commended, he won’t approve it for Boy Scouts after the fact or if they don’t want to wear their uniform for it. (Note that I don’t really have a problem with this – I’m just curious what others think about it or how other troops handle it…)

    • Matt Culbertson // November 10, 2015 at 9:30 am // Reply

      Your SM is adding to the requirements.

      • Whether or not a SM approves a non-BSA service project is entirely at his own discretion so he’s free to put whatever conditions on it that he wants to.

      • The SM in this case is not adding to the requirements, just defining the what he will approve.

        • Actually he is adding the requirement that the uniform must be worn. There is no such requirement in the rank requirements.

        • Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we try to micromanage scout spirit from afar. 🙁

          So let’s say a parent/scout runs this up the chain and winds up somehow forcing an SM to sign off, even though he doesn’t approve. Isn’t that taking away from the requirements?

    • If a Scout asks for approval BEFORE the service, generally, I’ll accept it with a note from the organizer/leader as a record of the service and hours. If they come after the fact, the service was not approved by the SM, so does not count. I also review this in the SM conferences as we look toward the requirements for the next rank, so it’s not a surprise.

      • Matt Culbertson // November 10, 2015 at 9:53 am // Reply

        The requirement does not say “pre approval”. We give some general guidelines on service that “counts”. Only pre approval is for Eagle projects.

        • Nahila Nakne // November 10, 2015 at 10:49 am //

          How will a Scout know if a project is acceptable or not unless he asks?

          With service projects outside of BSA, I’m concerned about “double dipping,” i.e a Scout trying to use say a required National Honor Society, 4-H, or school required service project for BSA advancement.

        • Nahila, you have a valid concern. In my experience, however, it’s the other programs that may or may not have such restrictions. BSA does not prohibit it. A savvy unit leader may already be aware of what the local schools prefer.

          Personally I’d like to see the troop PLC involved in building service opportunity into their program — including the importance of doing Good Turns. Regrettably, there are leaders who overlook that this is about teaching character, and focus instead on ticking off requirements.

    • The SM does have some latitude in how he approves projects. Of course, a scout now may be considered “in uniform” if he wears a neckerchief with apparel suitable to what he’s doing.

      Personally, I never expect scouts to be uniform when they do service through other organizations. In some cases it might not make sense. For example, a scout might get his football team to visit a homeless shelter. They might decide to wear their football jerseys. I’d have the patrol leader sign off as soon as the boy reports back how it went.

      Also, I’d rather SMs not require any paperwork from the boy. He asks his PL about a potential project, the PL sends boy to check with SM, boy tells PL that SM approved the project … maybe the patrol will offer to help … PL could double-check with SM just in case adult supervision may be necessary … the all go to it, or maybe the boy does it on his own … the following meeting boy reports to PL, PL signs off. Done.

    • I would always encourage a Scout to participate in service projects, and having his work count toward advancement may be just enough to get him of the couch.

  7. Tom McFarland // November 10, 2015 at 9:19 am // Reply

    No time like the present to learn about service to other !

  8. When did they drop the minimum hours requirement for Eagle Scout projects? I recall a 60 hour (including prep and planning) requirement back in the day. Am I confusing a suggested amount of work with a real requirement or was there a minimum number of hours required in the 80s?

    • I don’t think there was ever a minimum number of hours for an Eagle project set by the BSA. Some councils and districts mistakenly started creating minimums but they should not have. For more information see the Guide to Advancement section 9.0.2.4 “Give Leadership to Others …” http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/GuideToAdvancement/EagleScoutRank.aspx

    • I earned Eagle in 1988 and there was no minimum number of hours required for my Eagle project.

    • A minimum hours requirement has never specifically been a part of the requirements as listed in the Boy Scout Handbook.

      From 1911 through 1964, there were no specific requirements for a specific service project to be performed for Eagle beyond what was required for previous ranks or through individual merit badges.

      In 1965, the first Eagle project requirement came about of “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and carry out a service project helpful to your church or synagogue, school, or community.” This exact wording was used until 1972, when the requirement was re-worded to “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and carry out a service project helpful to your religious institution, school, or town.” No real change in the requirement, just in the way it was worded.

      In 1978, it was changed to “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.” This is the first time the Eagle project requirement specifically required the Scout to give leadership on the project, and it opened up the benefiting organization to any religious organization or school, not just the Scout’s.

      In 2009 was the change to what we currently have, stating “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project should benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) The project plan must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your Scoutmaster and troop committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook, No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.” Note that the first part is not a change at all, but just additional clarification added to the initial requirement.

      So while there might have been a sub-document such as the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook that listed a 60 hour minimum requirement, it has never been explicitly stated in the rank requirements as shown in the Boy Scout Handbook.

  9. Mike Rossander // November 10, 2015 at 10:23 am // Reply

    Can someone point us to a sanctioned definition of “conservation-related” service hours, please? I’m getting questions from parents and would prefer something more than just my own interpretation to rely on.

    • They ALREADY have to rely on just your own interpretation for service projects, since all service has to be approved by the Scoutmaster (assuming you are the Scoutmaster). You might create some guidelines—I’m struggling with this myself—but ultimately it’s the Scoutmaster’s decision.

    • Let’s leave that up to the SM.

  10. Andrew Curtin // November 10, 2015 at 11:11 am // Reply

    I think this is a step in the right direction. Many troops are already performing many hours of organized service work. This will further encourage this practice. I find the scouts feel a real sense of accomplishment when doing service work. This is also a great opportunity for learning new skills and using tools and equipment they are not regularly exposed to (within the guidelines of course).

    • I’d like to counter that opinion. This re-enforces nothing.

      If each of your boys is averaging an hour of service a month … a number sufficient for these requirements … consider your troop a failure. For the love of all that is true and right, encourage your boys to look for ways they can serve “off the books”!

      All of this bean-counting undermines the definition of cheerful service.

      Censor every leader — adult or youth — who uses the phrase “counts for service hours” when announcing a project. Seriously, consider investing in a buzzer or something …. and bounce that cheerfulness quotient ever higher!

      Boys love serving … they especially love conservation … find a muddy swamp to preserve and your scouts will be happy as clams building walkways over it and planting vegetation in it. You might find a few non-scouts coming along to join them.

      • Do you cover first aid with the same approach? Service and first aid are more alike than different. It is a metric to measure accomplisent. Your concerns are valid and are addressed by the “Demonstrate scout spirit” and Scoutmaster conference requirements. They cover the why you serve and why you learn first aid.

  11. BSA Service projects are always a good idea. Service is what counts. That is definitely one thing that Scouts have over church youth groups. I say this not to bash church youth groups, but I have seen where scouts are doing all these service projects and advancing in ranks, leadership and life experience. They then attend youth group activities and the regress into an entertainment mode where they want to be served instead of serving others.

    In my old troop, we were sponsored by a Presbyterian Church. They had a spring and fall cleanup. The troop and scouts were always there and did a good job. There was always a summer and winter rummage sale in the community room. The troop and scouts were always available. The YG – too busy playing church. Of course the leadership in the church noticed this as well. Who do you think got preference for the building use? The troop always got blamed for something and it would end up being that fault of the YG, I am sure that this happens in other troops as well. I have seen this happen in at least 5 troops.

    I had a youth pastor come to me during an Angel Food distribution. It was hosted by a Wesleyan Church. The scouts were asked to help out since the youth group declined. Everything was done quickly and in order. He was amazed that the youth were in charge and not the adults! I suggested that he should start a troop in his church.

    My church just hired a youth pastor that is also an Eagle Scout. He wants the YG to do service projects for the community. I told my son that people don’t like the words “service” or “servant”. Even the word “Work” is considered a 4 letter swear word by some people. I believe that he was shot down over this since I have not seen any service projects yet. Believe me, there are service projects all over and you don’t have to look very far to find them.

    This is a good move by the BSA. As someone stated before, most scouts already put this into practice. I believe that a service project for the lower ranks can also count as a troop activity other than camping, If the service project is approved by the SM it should still count as a troop activity.

    I think it is putting Matthew 25 into action. People can talk all they want, but unless action is taken, it does not mean much. People of faith may not like what I have stated, but I think they need to up their game.

    • I’m sorry that your youth group is in this rut. Our church’s non-scout youth are as passionate about service as the youth. They are an inspiring lot.

      The scouts (girls and boys), however, seem to know how to “snap to” when a task is in front of them.

      Cheerful service is where the real leadership training happens — in my opinion.

  12. What is the problem with so called “double dipping”?
    I don’t know about the requirements for 4H, National Honor Society, etc., but the only BSA limitation is that the FC project can’t be the same project used for TF and SC.

    • Nahila Nakne // November 10, 2015 at 7:21 pm // Reply

      Doing one thing or skill and having it count for multiple requirements, unless proscribed, doesn’t enhance mastery of the activity or skill. Repetition is a way of learning and gaining mastery that Scouting wants.

      By “double dipping” you do a great disservice to the Scout as an individual, and Scouting as a whole

      • I’m sorry – youth today are pulled in multiple directions by multiple IMPORTANT things. Allowing SOME of their service hours to work for multiple functions, with the approval of those in charge, is beneficial – not only to the Scout but to the organizations that are being aided by the Scout.

        The major ‘disservice’ being done to our youth is by adults who never feel satisfied that the youth have ‘given enough’.

        Lest you think I don’t know of what I speak – I am an Advancement Chair, the mother of an Eagle, a Life Scout and a current Wolf Scout as well as a Brownie Scout, a teacher, a youth leader in our church and a publicity director for the local as well as regional youth sports program my children belong to. They volunteer at multiple activities and, in some cases, have used their projects to benefit more than one organization that they belong to for which they needed service hours.

        THIS then is why there is the ability of the leader, in the case of Scouting the SM, to make a decision as to whether or not ‘double dipping’ is okay. My now Eagle Scout’s Life project resulted in service hours for both Scouts and National Junior Honor Society – I’m sure you can agree that his more than 10 hours of service was more than sufficient for what he received.

        • Nahila Nakne // November 11, 2015 at 6:45 am //

          One of the most important life skills that is learned from Scouting is time management, the ability to organize multiple tasks simultaneously. Doing multiple service opportunities for multiple organizations is feasible, and has been the expectation for as long as I can remember. I’ve done it. My friends did it, and the Scouts I work ware doing it.

          And I too have been around for a while. With over 30 years membership in the BSA in a variety of positions, as well as membership in other organizations that require service work, inlcuding a high school that required 100 hours of service work to graduate, I can tell you that in none of of that time have I, my friends, or the Scouts I have directly worked with have needed to “double dip” for service hours. Proper planning is the key to it. Not rushing through the advancement is another key.

          In regards to the Eagle Project, I don’t care how many hours were put in. There is no minimum number of hours for Eagle. Nor does an Eagle project need to be “successful.”

          What is required is that the Life Scout show LEADERSHIP (emphasis). Did he come up with the idea? Did he plan it? Did he go through the approval process? Did he secure the needed supplies? Did he recruit the necessary manpower? Did he supervise the project underway? etc etc.

          And as mentioned, it does not have to be a success. Best Eagle project IMHO was overall a complete waste of time and energy. Eagle did a swamp reforestation project. Got hold of the 100 saplings for the project, as well as materials for ‘nutria guards” to protect the saplings from those critters. A lot of work went into the project, but 6-9 months after he finished, that Eagle visited his project, and all that remained were the nutria guards. yep, the nutria had a feaste.

      • From what I understand of N.H.S., they want to tally a youth’s service hour totals, and that includes Eagle projects, Gold awards, and service in the process of achieving other goals. At least in our school’s chapter the hours achieved by NHS members far outstrip any that would be required for a variety of awards.

        Service is not a “skill”, it’s an attitude. One that is gained a little more after every dozen or so hours of time given.

      • The questions to ask yourself are, “Do I want to dissuade a Scout from participating in service projects by withholding approval?” and “How does another group’s service requirements affect Scouting?”

  13. Wozzo the Wonder Dog // November 10, 2015 at 7:00 pm // Reply

    The Eagle Project is not supposed to benefit Scouting. What about the service projects for other ranks?

    • Other service projects may benefit Scouting.

    • It’s not explicit … But I figure the service should be outside the walls of the troop. Service in the troop can serve as an alternative to positions of responsibility (as always, with SM’s approval).

      That still leaves the door open for council or camp projects. In cases like these, I leave it to the scoutmaster to judge.

    • Nahila Nakne // November 11, 2015 at 8:28 am // Reply

      Good question. I disagree with Chris in that I think the other ranks service projects should follow the example set by Eagle, and provide service to outside organizations.

      I know growing up, when I needed service hours for advancement, usually it was working on someone’s Eagle project.

      Other projects that were not Eagle related include the following:
      Scouting for Food and other food drives
      Memorial Day Flag Service Projects
      Toys for Tots
      Collecting clothes for homeless shelter
      Volunteer wait staff on Veterans’ Day.

  14. Matt Culbertson // November 10, 2015 at 8:44 pm // Reply

    Bryan had a blog on 101 ideas for service projects on 10/9/15. Check it out.

  15. Does this apply to current scouts or only to new, incoming scouts?

    • Bryan Wendell // November 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm // Reply

      Read about transitioning to the new requirements here: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/program_update/pdf/Transitioning_New_Requirements_2016.pdf

  16. Michael Merritt // December 6, 2015 at 10:40 am // Reply

    Is anyone aware if there will be a new tool for registering conservation related service hours, or will the existing tool at https://servicehours.scouting.org/UI/Security/Login.aspx be augmented to distinguish conservation hours from other activities?

  17. Larry Pinkney // December 10, 2015 at 12:30 am // Reply

    This issue could be solved simply by requiring the service hours be performed while in the previous rank. i.e. “while second class, a scout must perform three hours of service in order to earn First Class”

  18. Stewart Gondo // December 29, 2015 at 10:59 am // Reply

    Community service is also one of the Scout Laws – Helpful

    As a Scout, I once ask an adult leader whose son had aged out of Scouting why he was still involved as leader in Scouting. He replied “that I live in this community and as a resident I take many things and benefits from it, and this was one of the ways I give back to it.”

    As an adult I’ve tried to flow his example. I don’t think this leader realized the impact his words and Scouting has had on me, I’ll never forget his words, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten his name.

  19. Lanna Brickhaus // January 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm // Reply

    Mom of 2 Eagle Scouts, still don’t think it’s enough service hours!!!

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