The 20 most (and least) earned merit badges of 2011

What were the hottest merit badges last year?

I’ve got the answer. Maybe.

So first, a caveat: The friendly folks at the Supply Division tell me there’s no way to determine exact numbers of merit badges earned. That info is tracked by troops — not the National Council.

That said, by examining sales figures, we can get some idea which badges sold more than others in 2011. I’m thinking that if a Scouter buys a merit badge emblem in a Scout Shop or at, chances are good that a Scout recently earned the badge.

After examining the 2011 sales list, here’s what I’ve come up with for the 20 top-selling merit badges of 2011:

  1. First Aid*
  2. Swimming*
  3. Environmental Science*
  4. Citizenship in the World*
  5. Citizenship in the Nation*
  6. Camping*
  7. Communication*
  8. Citizenship in the Community*
  9. Personal Fitness*
  10. Family Life*
  11. Personal Management*
  12. Rifle Shooting
  13. Fingerprinting
  14. Emergency Preparedness*
  15. Leatherwork
  16. Wilderness Survival
  17. Wood Carving
  18. Archery
  19. Canoeing
  20. Fishing


  • Each of the top 11 and 12 of the top 20 are required for Eagle (marked with an asterisk above).
  • Summer camps typically teach the eight on this list that aren’t Eagle-required.
  • The top three are both Eagle-required and taught at most summer camps.
  • Scouts have embraced technology (with their excitement for cool new merit badges like Inventing and Robotics), but they’re still enjoying “classics” such as Rifle Shooting, Leatherwork, Archery, and Fishing.

What about the other end of the list?

There are no bad merit badges — as far as I’m concerned, they’re all great. But there are some that aren’t earned as often as others, for a variety of reasons.

Adult leaders, I challenge you to add a positive spin to the “bottom 20” by encouraging your Scouts to earn one of the “20 rarest merit badges” the BSA offers.

Here’s the 20 rarest merit badges of 2011, starting with the rarest:

  1. Bugling
  2. American Business
  3. American Labor
  4. Stamp Collecting
  5. Surveying
  6. Drafting
  7. Landscape Architecture
  8. Journalism
  9. Public Health
  10. Entrepreneurship
  11. Skating
  12. Dog Care
  13. Truck Transportation
  14. American Cultures
  15. Insect Study
  16. Gardening
  17. Model Design
  18. Plant Science
  19. Farm Mechanics
  20. Composite Materials


  • Many of these require highly specialized merit badge instructors, so be sure to share your expertise with your troop if you work in one of these fields — professional buglers, I’m talking to you.

What conclusions do you draw from these lists? Did anything surprise you? Leave your thought below.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.