Ask the Expert: Why is the Eagle Scout age requirement 18?

A boy must complete all requirements for the Eagle Scout Award by his 18th birthday, but why?

That was the question posed by Scouter Kim. H. She writes:

“Why do Scouts have to complete their Eagle requirements by their 18th birthday rather than by the time they graduate from high school?”

Some Scouts graduate high school early or late, so I’m sure fairness for all guys has something to do with it. But for the official answer, I asked the expert, Chris Hunt, team leader of advancement at the BSA National Office.

Here’s what he told me:

At the age of 18, in the Boy Scout and Varsity Scout programs, a young man is considered an adult, and thus no longer eligible to earn a youth member’s rank. At that age he may register as an assistant Scoutmaster, and assist in providing adult-level supervision at meetings and on outings.

So there’s your answer, Kim. I hope that clears things up.

Have a question about the BSA? Send it to me, and I’ll try to track down the answer.


  1. That didn’t answer the question, it only stated BSA’s policy. You’ve essentially said “it’s 18 because that’s what we said it is”.

    • It’s 18 because adults can’t earn youth awards. Of course, I should add there are rare exceptions made for young men with special physical or mental challenges.

    • Every requirement in Scouting is because “it is what they said it is” – as agreed upon by thoughtful and responsible leaders of the past and present.

      You could argue that one particular skill is not is not critical to Scouting skills …if that were the only requirement a boy could not do – but we can’t make exceptions for rank advancement in that case either. We cannot add to requirements, nor can we substitute or reduce requirements “because BSA says so!”

      Perhaps those who don’t agree with the BSA standards and requirements should look into another organization which is more lenient or focused upon different values?

  2. so what about boys that never got the opportunity to finish their eagle scout rank, say they had to move to a town that had not scouting organization? Why cant there be an Order of The Eagle for Adults? I would give anything to have finished mine. I know there are a lot of us adults who have similar situations that were not able to finish their Scouting due to not being able to drive themselves or moving so far away they couldnt get their parents to take them. This is my only one Regret in Life!

    • only one regret? dude I wish i was you, I have plenty more than just that one. It sucks, I had no clue there was a lone scout program when i moved away from my troop, was a sash and dash in OA, my ordeal was actually the last thing i ever did as a youth in scouts. that said I don’t want to see them open the eagle up to adults, part of life is learning you don’t always succeed, and that can be a hard lesson to learn. That said if you are looking for the adult “order of the eagle” sign up for the next woodbadge class. It is lovingly called the Eagle for adults a lot, and from some of the Eagle projects I have seen over the years verses the tickets I have seen I can see why. I’m still working my ticket, and will need the 18 months they give us to get it all done I’m sure. But once it’s done I get my beads and yes, join the ranks of the critters. Woodbadge may be just what you are looking for.

  3. Why are the first two boys not wearing their World Crest on their uniform? The third young man’s emblem looks like it is positioned incorrectly. Did I miss something? I thought this emblem was part of the uniform?

    • The reason that 2 boys aren’t wearing the World Crest is because this picture is at least 20 years old. In the 80s and into the early 90s, the World Crest was an earned patch. The primary requirement was attending an “International” Scouting function. The 3rd boy is wearing a 1993 National Scout Jamboree patch above the right pocket, and jamboree attendance (National or World) counted towards that. Although, I believe it was around that time the requirements were changed so that all members of the BSA could wear the patch and the first 2 boys just never put one on their shirts. Perhaps Bryan could clarify the date of the requirement change?

  4. Sorry, it did not answer the question as adults used to earn it IP until the late 60’s. Ir is perfectly acceptable tp say I Dont know.

  5. Actually, before 1972, boys registered as Explorers had until age 21 to earn Eagle and, before 1948, even adults could earn merit badges and Eagle Rank. The latter was because many Adult leaders before then didn’t have the opportunity to have been Scouts in their youth.

    So the requirements have changed over time.

  6. My scoutmaster had just begun as a new scoutmaster in his early 20’s when he completed his Eagle badge. Of course that was the late 50’s or early 60’s. He was not an Explorer, but a Boy Scout adult leader commonly known as Scoutmaster.

  7. Interesting. I’m a scoutmaster in a portuguese scout group and in our scout association ( we have a division, called Clan, for young adults from 18 to 21 years, with some staying one or two years longer. Here scouts do very interesting things and they are very autonomous, deciding what projects and activities they want to participate in and organize. This division is also where they get some closer contact with the group leaders and eventually decide if they want to be a scoutmaster, or not.

    Also, it’s here that scouts can earn what I guess is something similar to the Eagle Scout Award, which is called “Escoteiro da Pátria” – translated literally to “Scout of the Nation”. Very few scouts ever got this honor in Portugal. You have until you’re 21/22 to work for it.

  8. I left Scouts at 14 and did not progress past First Class. Now that I’ve been a Scout Leader for more than seven years, I wish I had stayed and gotten my Eagle, but I don’t see the need for an adult version, nor do I see any reason to increase the age past 18. I’m very content with watching my sons and their friends on their journey to Eagle (or wherever Scouting takes them) and helping them along the way where I can. My involvement with Scouting now is focused on the boys, not me.

  9. Eagle for adults? #smh Just what we need: another participation trophy for Scouters living vicariously through the youth. This program is built on YOUTH character development and ACHIEVEMENT, not just recognition for the sake of knots and beads. The path to Eagle taught us valuable skills in a setting only appropriate for young, developing adolescents. It was our time. We needed strong adult association to assist us and I honor the leaders who helped me through but now all I see is crying, overweight, entitled recognition snobs who lust for it to be their time again. Eagle by the time you’re 18 because that’s the standard that is set, or don’t. It’s not for everyone; that’s the challenge. If you can’t or won’t for one excuse or another, you’re not cut out for it, you’re not deserving of it and you’re certainly not entitled to it.

    – Proud Eagle ’98, earned not given

  10. Amazing story as my Senior in HS. Life Scout completed his Eagle Project. Had The Board of Review. Turned 18. Went to mtgs. In Venturing green.
    (Was still the OA rep. Was OA key 5. Lodge Secty. Was past Chapter chief. (Was only boy in troop to pay dues + continue in OA 4 yrs) all sash +dash. )
    WAS Council Leadership Awarded.
    Was 4 Yrs NYLT. Now SPL.
    yet none of Leaders presented the
    ideas of Leadership Training beyond what they taught. So at 18. The advancement Chair. REMOVES HIM FROM TROOP COMPUTER !!
    Before he graduated. HS.
    Before his Eagle Court of Honor. !
    So after NYLT. + Working at our 85 yr old Sciut camp all summer. We had his Eagle CoH. 4 troop boys attended. his 4 friends as Flag honir guard. We had A full OA ceremony of the 4 winds. 3 ASM. Attended. Wow.

  11. I have scoured the internet in search of the exact verbiage, but when I was working toward my Eagle back in the early ’80s, I remember reading in the Scout Handbook that the requirements for advancement in scouting are designed to challenge boys, not men.

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