Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

service-star-1Been involved in Scouting for more than a year? You get a gold star.

All youth or adult leaders who have reached one year of tenure with the Boy Scouts of America are eligible to begin wearing service stars. The stars are an underused outward symbol of how long you’ve been involved and a quick way for new Scouts, parents and leaders to see who has Scouting experience.

Anyone can simply walk into a Scout Shop (or go to and purchase the pins and color background. There’s no application.

Scouters and Scouts are trustworthy, so the BSA trusts someone born in 1960, for example, not to purchase and wear a 60-year pin.

Stars start at one year and go up to an impressive 90 years (though you can combine multiple stars to send that number even higher). They’re worn with a specially colored backing that corresponds to the appropriate Scouting program.

But what if your Scouting tenure spans several programs, includes time spent in Scouting as a youth or has a gap of several years? That’s when things get a little trickier — but not much. I’ll answer those questions after the jump.

Which numbered service star do I wear?

First, figure out your registration date with the unit. At the year anniversary of that date, you’re eligible to wear a 1-year service star. Repeat that every year. Most units will wait to award their service stars at a court of honor or special ceremony.

Here’s how the stars break down for Scouts and Scouters. Note that there are differences in the way Scouts wear them and the way Scouters do.

For Scouts

The Guide says: “If an individual’s primary registration is in one phase of Scouting and later in another, separate stars with the appropriate background and numerals may be worn simultaneously.”

Example 1: A boy was in Cub Scouting for three years then crossed over into Boy Scouting and has been there for two years. He would wear two stars. One 3-year (with gold backing) and one 2-year (with green backing). More on backings later.

Example 2: A boy was in Cub Scouting for four years, spent five years Boy Scouting and now has been a Venturer for a year. He would wear three stars. One 4-year (gold backing), one 5-year (green backing), one 1-year (red backing).

Example 3: A boy joined Boy Scouting two years ago, and is still involved. He would wear one 2-year star (green backing).

Example 4: A girl joined three years ago and is still involved. She would wear one 3-year star (red backing).

Example 5: A boy was in Cub Scouting for a year, left the program, and returned to Boy Scouting, where he’s been registered for two years. He would wear two stars. One 1-year (gold backing) and one 2-year (green backing).

To be clear, the boys in Examples 1, 2 and 5 cannot combine their time in separate programs into one pin. So the boy in Example 2 would wear three separate pins as explained above, not one 10-year pin.

For Scouters

Adult leaders are a different story. The Guide says: “Leaders may combine youth and adult tenure into one or two stars with blue backgrounds.”

Leaders are allowed to represent their time spent as a youth in Scouting separately through an additional pin or pins as mentioned above. But I imagine most will want to show the total time they’ve spent in the program. That means they get to wear a larger number, after all.

Example 1: An adult was in Cub Scouts for four years and Boy Scouts for six. Now he’s been a registered adult leader for 10 years. He would wear a 20-year star (blue backing). (Or he could wear a 4-year star with gold backing, a 6-year star with green backing and a 10-year star with blue backing.)

Example 2: An adult was a Venturer for three years and has been a Venturing advisor for four. She would wear a 7-year star (blue backing). (Or she could wear a 3-year star with red backing and a 4-year star with blue backing.)

Example 3: An adult was in Boy Scouts for five years and has been registered as an adult leader for 30 years. There’s no 35-year star, so he would wear a 30-year star and a 5-year star — 30+5 = 35 (blue backings on both). (Or he could wear a 5-year star with green backing and a 30-year star with blue backing.)

Example 4: An adult was in Boy Scouts for two years then wasn’t involved in Scouting for 10 years. Now he’s back and has been a Scouter for two years. He would wear a 4-year star (blue backing). (Or he could wear a 2-year star with green backing and a 2-year star with blue backing.)

Example 5: An adult was in Boy Scouts for five years and has been registered as an adult leader for 71 years. He would wear a 70-year star and a 6-year star — 70+6 = 76. Or, I suppose, a 75-year star and a 1-year star — 75+1 = 76. And he should get a parade in his honor immediately. (Or he could wear a 5-year star with green backing and a 70-year and 1-year star each with blue backing. Three stars total.)

Example 6: An adult wasn’t involved in Scouting as a youth but has been a volunteer leader for five years. He would wear a 5-year star (blue backing).

Example 7: An adult wasn’t involved in Scouting as a youth. He’s been registered the past five years with a pack and the past three with a troop. Those years overlapped, so his total time with Scouting has been five years. He would wear a 5-year star (blue backing).

The pins themselves

service-star-90The numbered gold pins include every digit from 1 to 10 and jump by 10s from there: 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. After that the gap is every five years: 75, 80, 85, 90. With those last few you’re getting into rarified air.

Here are the pins along with their Supply number. Protip: The number makes it easy when searching at Just enter the number in the search box, and you’ve saved yourself a few steps.

1-year service star, No. 71.
2-year service star, No. 72.
3-year service star, No. 73.
4-year service star, No. 74.
5-year service star, No. 75.
6-year service star, No. 76.
7-year service star, No. 77.
8-year service star, No. 78.
9-year service star, No. 79.
10-year service star, No. 80.
20-year service star, No. 68.
30-year service star, No. 69.
40-year service star, No. 70.
50-year service star, No. 81.
60-year service star, No. 82.
70-year service star, No. 83.
75-year service star, No. 1182.
80-year service star, No. 1183.
85-year service star, No. 1184.
90-year service star, No. 1185.

service-star-certificateYou can present them with the certificate seen here (Supply No. 34396).

That ensures that the star isn’t lost before you’re able to present it to the Scout or Scouter.

Most units will pin the star to the certificate and present it all as one.

What colored backing do I wear?

The stars must be worn with a colored background.

For Scouts, that background represents the phase of Scouting in which the service was

service-star-yellowGold backs (No. 63) are for youth Cub Scouting service (Tigers, Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts).



service-star-greenGreen backs (No. 66) are for youth Boy Scout service.




service-star-brownBrown backs (No. 67) are for youth Varsity Scout service.




service-star-redRed backs (No. 65) are for youth Venturing service.




For adults, the same backings are used regardless of program. And as I explained above, an adult may combine youth and adult service to come up with one number of total service to Scouting.

service-star-blueBlue backs (No. 64) are for adult Scouter service.

Where are the service stars worn?

Service stars are worn centered above the left pocket, about three-eighths of an inch above the seam/flap.

If a medal or an embroidered knot is worn, service stars are worn above the left pocket a quarter-inch above the medal or knot.

service-star-where2 service-star-where1

The source

This information came from Page 63 of the BSA’s Guide to Awards and Insignia and was verified by Peter Self, team leader with council support here at BSA.

H/T: Thanks to Peter Self and to Scouter Brandon Kleimann for suggesting the blog post idea. 


  1. This is a different interpretation than I have heard before. Perhaps the confusion revolves around the “may” in the scouter section?

    Previously, I’ve heard that adult leaders could wear multiple stars showing their tenure as a youth (green backing for example) separate from their tenure as an adult leader (blue backing).

    • You’re correct, Chris. I explained that above in this sentence: “Leaders are allowed to represent their time spent as a youth in Scouting separately through an additional pin or pins as mentioned above.”

      So a leader who was in Boy Scouts for 5 years and has now been a leader for 5 could wear two five-year pins. One with green backing and one with blue.

      But if it were me, I’d go for the higher number and wear one 10-year pin (blue backing).

      I’ve added those examples above. Thanks!

    • He said that …

      “Leaders are allowed to represent their time spent as a youth in Scouting separately through an additional pin or pins as mentioned above.”

      • If you only wore 1 pin with a blue backing that said 10 , i would be under the impression that you were never a youth scout and only adult also thinking that this guy doesn’t really have all the experience just what he has learned in training.

  2. Don’t forget there was a period of time where a Scout could have been eligible to earn a service star for being a Tiger Cub. It came with an orange background and didn’t have a number on it. All those Scouts/ers if active can still wear that one also.

      • I *think* this applies to me, but don’t have my council record from my cub scout days. Anyone know for sure what years this applied to?

        • If you were a Tiger Cub Scout from 1997 to 2001, you can wear the service star with the orange background representing your year as a Tiger Cub Scout.

        • Sorry – I believe 1993 to 2001. In 1993 Pack Charters were extended to include Tiger Cubs.

        • August 1 1982 was when Tiger Cubs were created. And in August 1, 1983 the orange backing came out.

          How do I remember this, I was one ticked off 3rd grader ’cause just as I joined Cub Scouts, this new Tiger Cub program comes out for 2nd graders. 🙁

          1993 was when they expanded Cub Scouts to a 4 year program, and Tigers got more involved with the packs. They wore the blue and orange socks, blue shorts or pants, tiger belt, but still wore the orange T-shirts. Also the ‘Tiger Cub Graduate” patch was replaced with a Tiger Cub badge that was worn on the belt fob as a tiger, then on the blue shirt in the Webelos badge’s position.

          It wasn’t until 1998 or thereabouts that Tigers were fully incorporated into Cub Scouts, having to earn the Bobcat Badge prior to Tiger Cub badge, no more belt fobs and iron on decals, etc.

  3. Has any thought been given to recognizing Girl Scout tenure? Many Girl Scouts switch to Venturing when they get older, as Girl Scout units decline in membership in the teen years. Thus in a Venturing unit, you may have boys with eight or nine years of tenure, while a girl with similar Scouting experience would only have a single star.

    Similarly for adults- a female leader might have ten years or more of Girl Scout experience, and five as an adult, and have only a five-year star. I had 10 years of Scouting as a youth (3 Cub, 6 Boy Scouts, 1 Exploring) and I could therefore wear a 10-year star the day I joined as an adult. Doesn’t seem fair to our female leaders.

    • No, and they shouldn’t be any more than we should give out service stars for Campfire or BPSA or Royal Ambassadors etc.

      • Jen, The crossing of awards and such are not allowed between the BSA and other groups. I saw some Eagle Scouts wanting to display their Eagle Knot (or drape Award) on a Royal Ranger Uniform and it did not go the other way as well wearing a GMA drape Award on a BSA uniform. I know that some Royal Rangers are also involved in the BSA and get double duty for merit badges since they are very similar. Some have earned their Eagle and Gold Medal of Achievement (GMA), but unfortunately the awards can not be displayed on either groups uniform.
        I am glad that a youth stays in either or multiple groups though. Our council has an influx of girls leaving the GSA to become Crew members since the Crew has activities that they can participate in. I do not know much about the GSA though, but I would think they would want to retain the older girls in their ranks. But that is a GSA issue.
        I would not really have an issue with a girl wearing service pins on their BSA uniform since they have put the time in or earned a badge or advancement, but it is technically not allowable.
        I do not wear the service pins though. After a couple years, it does not matter to much. Focus on the youth is the main thing. When you leave that, then a leader has lost focus on what is important.

    • Personally, I think allowing the use of Girl Scout / Heritage … “service stars” or the BSA star with a unique youth female background would have merit.

  4. Now if we can only get people to place the World Crest where it’s supposed to go: halfway between the top of the pocket and the shoulder seam, not 1/2″ above the top of the pocket!

    I personally like to still wear the individual program service stars as a Scouter, so people can see my tenure in each program.

      • Bryan – this brings up another bone of contention, and that is why they did away with the individual Cub Scout Leader knots. The knots told a story. You could tell a leader’s history by just looking at their knots. Cluttering up your knots with a bunch of devices does not tell a story. Yes, there are always going to be those leaders who want to earn everything there is to learn – and also display it – but the majority of us Scouters are just happy to do our thing and earn a knot or two along the way. It seems as though Scouting is taking away our individuality.

        • Pat, the reasoning and justification for the consolidation of the Cub Scout leader *awards* and their corresponding cloth insignia, along with other awards, was explained here a couple of times — in glorious detail even. If you do a search for “square knots” on Bryan’s blog, you’ll find them.

          As far as “cluttering up you knots with a bunch of devices” is concerned, that’s EXACTLY what we in the BSA did before the 90s. Didn’t hurt anyone and you STILL got to “read their story” from their uniform.

        • In my experience, only the hard core (like me!) bother to wear knot devices OR service stars. They last only until the fall off in the washing machine.

    • I remember when the World Crest was a patch that had to be earned…not just automatically given out to everybody who registers. I am still frosted by this as I worked very hard to get mine.

      • Steve,

        I understand completely. I too earned mine and was about to earn a second one when we were informed that WOSM put some pressure on BSA to allow everyone to wear it. I was literally on the bus Canada at the time.

        Our contingent leaders did make it up to us though. They got the Canadian version of the patch for us to wear. It has a velvet background.

        I was told that the reason why the World Crest is sold separately is that it is trade marked to WOSM, and a portion of its sales goes to WOSM.

    • Vinnie,
      I agree about the world Crest. What I think is Funny is it’s now required on every uniform but they sell it seperately instead of attaching it to the uniform in a standardized location solving the issue.

  5. Bryan – I’m still a little confused… I’m and adult leader, led 7 years in Cubs and 7 total years in Boy Scouts, but 2 of those overlapped (due to two sons 2 years apart). Does that mean I only wear a single 11 year pin (10 +1 with blue backings) or 7 for Cubs (blue backing), and 7 for Boy Scouts (green backing)?

    • Dean, it seems like all your time registered was as a leader, correct? Then you wouldn’t be eligible for any backing other than blue. In this case, it’s total time registered. So you’d wear a 10-year and 1-year pin, both with blue backing.

      The other backings are for service as a youth.

      • Remember that time served only counts for primary registration. If your primary registration is Webelos den leader for 2 years and you are also registered as an assistant Scoutmaster for the same period, you do not double count. You wear a 2 year pin with blue back.

        Hope this helps.

        • Wait… time served only counts a primary registration?

          So say a 24 year old Scouter was a Boy Scout from age 11 until age 18, and has been an assistant Scoutmaster from age 18 onward; but he was also registered and active as a Venturer from age 15 until age 21 and as an associate advisor from age 21 onward.

          So clearly he gets 7 years as a Boy Scout (green backing) and 7 years as a Scouter (blue backing). But he does he get to wear 7 years for Venturing (red backing) too? Do his years in Venturing count even though his primary registration was in a troop and not a crew? Does he wear a 3 instead of a 7 (only counting the 3 years, from 18 to 21, that he was a primary as an adult in his Boy Scout Troop and a primary as a youth in his Venturing Crew)? Does he wear no Venturing number because his Boy Scout registration trumped it?

        • Gary said “So say a 24 year old Scouter was a Boy Scout from age 11 until age 18, and has been an assistant Scoutmaster from age 18 onward; but he was also registered and active as a Venturer from age 15 until age 21 and as an associate advisor from age 21 onward.”

          I’d also like to know this.

          I was registered in a Varsity Team for 4 years (14-17) and earning awards. At the same Time I was registered and earning separate awards for 4 years in a Venturing Crew from 16-19. How do I count those stars if I want to show the programs separately?

          Option 1: Count 4 years Team, 2 years Crew
          Option 2: Count 4 Years Team, Count 4 years Crew (2 years overlapped)
          Option 3: I choose as long as the total does not exceed 6 years. For example I could count 2 years Team and 4 years Crew OR 3 years Team and 3 Crew.

          Or some other option I haven’t thought of.

          Personally I’d hate it a Varsity Team trumped a Venturing Crew just because it came first as I consider Venturing the pinnacle of my scouting experience.

    • If you’ve never been a Cub or Boy Scout, and only have been an adult leader, then I think you only wear the Blue. The colors are only for those boys who have been in that program. Unless you, yourself, were in Cub Scouts, you’d never wear the yellow. So yes, you’d wear the 11 years with blue backing.

  6. Who doesn’t want a gold star? 🙂

    It’s difficult to keep up with this, but once I got it started in my pack, it was easy to add a year to each leader and get the starting year for new leaders. As a Pack, we didn’t do it for our Cub Scouts because a) they lose things and b) it would be VERY expensive. But we didn’t discourage it. We just didn’t provide the Scouts with the pins.

    Would be cool if there were some kind of exchange program, too. That 6 year pin you’re not going to need for some 10 years (if you one even stays in the program for 16 years) and it could be recycled for a new 6 year leader….unless one is into collecting each year.


    • I feel the same way as you, but since I wear my individual stars (3yr gold, 7 yr green, and 4 yr blue) as Cubmaster, my boys started asking how they could earn their stars. This year, I started including a service star with the Arrow of Light for their total years as a Cub Scout so when they cross over, they have their gold backed pin.

    • Personally I only wear mine in increments of 5, but I didn’t start wearing them until I became an adult and already had 15 years between cubs, scouts and 2-3 years as a leader. A lot of packs have the parents pin the cubs tiger, wolf bear, etc. on their uniform, you could also have the parent pin the new numbered pin onto their uniform, and maybe have just a wooden chest held by the den leader or cubmaster that they could place the old one back into. That would make it at least look somewhat symbolic, and you could recycle them that way.

  7. @mrpoge: Scouter’s may wear either all blue backs on stars denoting total time in Scouts (youth +adult) or broken down by program. For example, on my unit shirt (I am a COR) I wear a 3 year pin for Cubs (yellow), 7 for Boy Scouts (green), 1 for Explorers (Red) and and a 20 year + 4 year for adult (blue) – a total of 5 stars. On my council uniform (I am the council advancement chair), I wear 2 stars – a 30 year and a 5 year with a blue back. I wear my 30 (haven’t received my 35 year yet) veteran pin on my civilian suit jacket lapel.

    Hope this helps.

  8. The only time this has ever been “sticky” for me is for Webelos Scouts… they cross over to Boy Scouts halfway through their fifth year. So do they wear a 4 year star with a yellow background, or a 5 year? And then when do they get their 1 year star with a green background, the following February, or in September? Maybe the BSA should start producing a “4 1/2” star! 😉

    • We solved this by using a June to May calendar year for pack and troop and use the majority of the year for the appropriate program.

      Hope this helps.

      • Thanks, Lou, but the stars are awarded by anniversary year, not calendar year. The vast majority of boys join in September when school starts, at least in our area.

        • Fair enough. I do understand. We heavily recruit in the Spring so the majority of our boys start in early June so they can enjoy the summer programs and start their advancement over the summer.

    • Mark, I’ve answered this over the years with a simple baseball phrase: “ties go to the runner”. In other words, if we’re talking a fraction of a year, go ahead and round up and award that next year (in this case 5 year) pin. The entire tenure pin program is a UNIT PROGRAM — while the BSA does keep tabs on when you joined and what unit you learned, as Bryan says “A Scout is trustworthy” and the BSA leaves it to you or your unit to do the best you can to recognize his tenure.

      So to answer your question, I would give him a five year service star with a yellow backing and thank him for being a Cub Scout all of those years. When he becomes a Boy Scout, his Boy Scout tenure should start the day he became a Boy Scout (in his case, when he “crossed over” from WEBELOS Cub Scout to Boy Scout).

      Besides, how would you “cut a star in half?” *grinning from ear to ear*

      • That’s good advice, thanks Mike. I try not to sweat things like this too much. After all, it’s just a pin, if we wear it wrong it’s not like we’re violating some core value, right? It’s actually my own son who’s seemed the most concerned about how he wears his pins. He wants the “5” for Cub Scouting, and he also wants to increment his Boy Scout pin on the anniversary of his crossover vs. waiting until September. But he’s expressed concern about “giving himself credit” for the same time twice. Well, I have to admire him for that spirit of Trustworthiness and Obedience… and that’s what we’re after, after all, right?! 🙂

  9. I prefer to take the multiple star route (a 5 with yellow for my cub scout tenure, 7 with green for boy scout tenure, and currently a 20 and a 1 for my leader tenure). I haven’t been an adult leader for 33 years.

  10. I’m of the (wear multiple stars with the correct background to indicate my service). Yes I have a total of 33 years, but only 21 of it as a leader. There’s also 5 as a cub and 7 as a boy scout in there.

    As a Pack we give stars to our graduating webelos as part of the crossover ceremony as well as to our adult leaders as they “retire”.

    • Why would want to “turn them in”, Carrie? That’s like me giving back my WEBELOS activity badges once I became a Boy Scout!! No…these are *personal recognition items* and need to go into a memory box or displayed on a vest.

      My old year pins from Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Exploring are framed with photos of myself in those programs. It sits in my mom’s old office (my mom passed away eight years ago on Tax Day – April 15th) and was a source of pride whenever people came back to visit with her and noticed the framed year pins and photos. There’s other things in there I made for my mom while in Cub Scouts, my last Pinewood Derby(tm) car, and an Explorer Presidents’ Association card.

    • Our pack has 42 uniformed leaders (most of whom have under 10 years of service and thus need to change pins every year). To upgrade everyone’s pin every year would cost us over $100 just on pins. We try to recycle them as much as possible (we still have to buy some each year – some leaders like to collect them or, take them with them, or loose them, etc.). But generally speaking if you you’ve completed your 2nd years as a den leader (proudly wearing a 2 pin), you really don’t have a use for that old 1 pin anymore; why not let’s give it to a newer leader coming up behind you and save the pack $2? A Scout is thrifty.

  11. I see that you say “an adult may combine youth and adult service.” Does that mean that an adult MAY separate his service star into each service Cub Scout, Boy Scout & Scouter?

    • Yes, red is for Exploring. When Venturing was created it “took over” for the old Exploring program. So if you were an Explorer, pre-Venturing then you would wear the red background.

  12. I prefer threadbare uniforms to service stars, but you got me thinking …

    Say a youth was 7 years in a boy scout troop and 7 years in a venturing crew, with 5 of those years overlapping as a multiple of one unit or the other, and for kicks let’s say he’s an assistant scoutmaster with troop for those last 2 years as a venturer. (This is pretty much the track that I encourage most of my boys to take.) Should he get stars that total to 9 years or 16 years?

    My suggestion would be something that totals to 9 (e.g. 4 scout, 3 venturing, 2 adult). What say you all?

        • I can just see my youth coloring their pin-backs a la Venn diagrams to reflect time in multiple registrations. 😉

        • OK, so someone who registered primarily as a Den Leader (registered as an adult with a pack) and also registered with a troop as a “multiple” doesn’t get to “double count” those years.

          What about individuals who have two primary registrations?

          Such as someone between 18 and 21 who is two primary registrations – one as an assistant Scoutmaster (with a primary adult registration with a Boy Scout Troop) and one as a member of a Venturing Crew (with a primary youth registration with a crew)?

  13. Am It he only one who has never seen these on uniforms? I saw the stars int he bottom of the cub scout supply box when I was a CS leader but even as a SM, I still have yet to see anyone in district/counsel wearing them. just knots. Must be something that went by the wayside regionally due to budget. I know my old cub pack quit issuing parent pins. My troop still does the parent pin thing though. There is so much bling that I think most are just too busy trying to do scouting to pay attention.

    • I would say it is uncommon because it is optional, not very well publicized locally, and unrestricted. You are right, there is a lot of optional bling that we can give out that something as cool as this can be forgotten, but we can be the change in our districts about this. I am going to use this as a roundtable discussion as a tool for youth (and volunteer) retention along with the attendance pins. I have had my 20 year pin on for a few months and I have already had a few old timers ask why I have mine and they don’t.

      Take charge and be the trend setter!

    • Mike — year pins have been around since the 30s…they are not going away because of “budgets”. The reason why you haven’t seen anyone in your District or Council wear them is because either they haven’t trucked down to the Council office or the Scout Shop(tm) to get theirs — and the backings — or choose not wear them (too much effort into placing and wearing them).

      If worn correctly and for the right reasons, there’s not too much “bling”…and those parents who don’t get a parents’ pin when their sons advance, well, they’re just missing out *smiling*.

    • When I began wearing them, I only knew of a handful of people that did, and I thought they were so awesome as a youth, but I thought I had to be an adult to wear them. Needless to say when I became old enough to be a leader, and made my way to the shop a few years later to buy them, I started getting a lot of questions even within my own unit, especially because I was 20-21 and wearing a 10 and 5 with blue backs (the math just barely worked in my favor, I have a late birthday, so I joined “early”). I know know many more people that were them, and I think it is another fantastic way to recognize leaders with years of experience. A leader may have been around for 20-30 years, but not have many knots, but this can still show your appreciation to them.

    • My son and I wear our service star proudly. The Pack gave them annually, but the Troop never has. A scout is trustworthy, I pick them up at the Scout Store.

  14. I wear the Green and gold backgrounds. This demonstrates to the youth that you were once as they are now. Also, since I have 4 stars for 9 years out of 10, we sewed little crosses to the uniform where the pins go. To keep that 10th year straight, I wear the 10 star in position 2 that year. So, on my 40th total year, I wore: a 20 blue, a 10 blue, a 7 green and a 3 yellow. The next year I incremented to a 30 blue, a 1 blue a 7 green and a 3 yellow. I’m now a year beyond that to 42 total years. Some time ago, I broke down and bought enough stars for all my uniforms (5 shirts) I got all the green and gold stars as they never change. Then I bought the digits 1-10 for each shirt, and the curent and next “10s” counter. It cost me up front, but I haven’t bought any new stars in years.

  15. We go through periods where we do and don’t give them out. We give them out for a while, they get lost, they never get put on, they get left off after the next laundry day, we get tired of pouring money down the drain. We go a few years, we give them out again. Fortunately, we’re close enough to the scout shop that anyone who wants them can get them easily and without paying $7 to ship a $2 item that weight 2 grams.

  16. One problem with Service Stars I only see with youth is youth wearing too many.

    Usually this is with Packs who give out stars to the boys on their anniversary year, and they wear every one. So you might see a kid with a 1 year, 2 year, and 3 year stars, when they should just wear the 3 year stars. They don’t understand that doing that really shows they were in the program 6 years and not 3.

    • Yep. That’s how I thought they were supposed to be worn. Then, I realized they would never stay on my active sons’ uniform, so we asked not to keep getting then. 🙁

  17. My question is: What is the proper order to wear the stars (direction of appearance from viewers left) when wearing all service stars earned (myself is: Cubs 3, Scouts 5,
    Explorers (1960-62) 2, adult 52 (50 + 2)?

    • Program order, Walt: place your uniform on a hanger and then from your left to right arrange them like this — Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Explorer, adult. My count is that you have five year pins: a three year Cub Scout one; next a five year Boy Scout one; next a two year Explorer one; and finally the two adult service stars one with a “50” and the other with a “2”.

      • But Mike, what if you joined a venturing crew first, then joined a boy scout troop the following year?
        (I almost got one young man to do this. He was wishing “out loud” to be able to work on Eagle like the other boys in his crew were. I told him I knew an SM who would help him make it happen, he didn’t bite!)

        • PROGRAM ORDER, q. It doesn’t matter which program came first — if you want to wear multiple “service” or “tenure” stars, you should wear them in the BSA’s program order:

          Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Venturer/Sea Scout (Explorer/Sea Explorer), adult.

          “Adult” meaning *all* periods of adult service — volunteer, paraprofessional, professional.

          Where is this written? Not in the current Guide to Awards and Recognitions nor in the last three Insignia (Control) Guides. You have to go a bit far back to see where the BSA wrote that “the (service) stars are arranged in program order — Cub, Scout, Explorer, adult” But the intent is that you should wear them in the order of the BSA’s programs.

          Aw…you *can* wear them in any order you like — and when the “Uniform Police” come pulling you off to the side, simply tell them “I didn’t know the order — so I just put them on any way…” Of course, now that you know what the “program order is”, isn’t that like…um…telling a fib? *smiling*

      • when wearing two pins as an adult, both with blue backs, would you recommend wearing the higher or lower number first? I usually put my lower number and then higher number, but it seems like people posting do the opposite.

        • Ahoy Mike, The Current Sea Scout Manual doesn’t address the wearing of Service Stars. Only the Seal Pin is on the Port Side. We limit our “bling” to 6 knots immediately over the left pocket in two rows. I took a “National Training Course” and was told my uniform looked like a “South American Generals” so I cut it down to size.

        • Yep, that’s correct. Sea Scouts and Scouters don’t wear “tenure pins”. That’s Sea Scouting’s decision although I have to admit that sometimes my Sea Scouting whites are not “uniform” (I also wear a OA flap, which isn’t official on *that* uniform).

        • Mike,

          You, in a “piratetical costume” for a Sea Scout Uniform?!?!??!?!?!?!

          I’m so disappointed. 🙂 LOL

          Seriously though, I still got my original “Sea Explorer” white shirt that some would call a “pirateical costume” with OA flap (only unit I ever knew that all members were Vigils btw), temp insignia, unit numbers, etc.

          Then I got a 2nd one that’s up to date.

        • When I was younger, I owned both blues and whites as a Sea Explorer Skipper. The blues I no longer have because they become too small for my frame (or I’ve become too large for the uniform…*smiling*). I still have a Sea Explorer white shirt (we have a military clothing sales store in my hometown and they do carry some Navy items which I had to modify to wear as a Sea Exploring/Sea Scouting set) which fits me (well, okay…) and so it still sits in the closest, ready for my next voyage as a Sea Scouter).

          No year pins. The OA flap is from Zit-Kala-Sha (the lodge serving the Old Kentucky Home Council). The shoulder patch is a full color one from OKHC. Blue and white unit numbers.

  18. How about this as a youth I was registered as a boy scout, and in exploring (before venturing existed) and in varsity. I currently wear 5/gold (long story) 6/green 3/red 3/brown and 7/blue. Even though some of that time overlapped… Since it’s showing the time in each program I thought it was correct. If I was showing total tenure I would wear 10/blue and 8/blue.

    • The stars all added together should equal your total tenure in Scouting. In cases of program overlap, just pick one program to “credit” or go all-blue backs. I’ve found, personally, that breaking them down by program adds gravitas when I talk about a given program – the stars tell my listeners that I’ve been there, done that, probably know what I’m talking about.

      Incidentally, Bryan, the Uniform Inspection Sheet shows that Service Stars should be worn 3/8″ above any square knots & (if more than one star is worn) separated laterally 3/4″.

      TIP: For easy placement, I made a template/guide from a piece of manila folder w/ holes cut out for the stars at the right places. I just put the bottom of the guide against the top of my knots, put the backs & pins in the holes, and viola! quick, easy & accurate placement.

  19. I wish service stars were made better like the old days. Last month we handed out Service stars to our 16 youth in the Venture crew. Within the hour every single person had thiers fall off the uniform from where we pinned them because the pin and clip portions are not made as good as in the past. Might be time to redesign the back of them.

    • Agreed. There is no ridge in the pin’s post to keep the back on. I had to get a special locking back to keep my son’s pin on. The ridges can’t be that hard to incorporate, because all the Girl Scout membership stars have them (I haven’t had a single one of those fall off, even after twelve years of wear!)

  20. Several years ago I met a Scouter who had 55 single stars correctly above his pocket. When I asked him about the huge number of stars, he said it was a ‘conversation piece’. “It got you over here to talk to me, didn’t it?” I always that day as a unique way to meet people, who may not always come right up to you.

  21. An more in-depth conversation about service stars can be found at

    Two items: first the Girl Scout “year pin” is of a different design and has different backings than the BSA’s “tenure” or “year” pin. If your Council’s Scout Executive says “okay”, there should be no issue with a former Girl Scout member to wear a SINGLE year pin with the total number of years spent as a Girl Scout. But *ask beforehand*, don’t assume that you can do this.

    The other item is that, as someone mentioned, there’s a difference between the VETERAN pin and the TENURE pin. ALL VETERAN pins are worn with civilian (“street”) clothing and NOT anywhere on the BSA’s field uniforms. You can wear a SINGLE Veteran pin on the left lapel of the BSA’s dress (the blue jacket with either grey slacks or skirt) uniform. (more on Veteran pins can be found at — only the TENURE (“year”) pin(s) are worn with the field uniform.

    Bryan provided the “illustration” on where those pins are worn…when awarding them, please use the card/certificate and attach the pin to the card before presentation. A large number of us have simply awarded the pin by attaching it to the left pocket flap — and that’s where it stayed until someone notices that the pin’s in the wrong place. Then it’s “I didn’t know…that’s where they pinned it so we thought that’s where it goes…” *smiling*.

    And a final note: “the uniform of the Scouter is the uniform of the Scout.” If you haven’t seen any year pins worn by your Scouts — it’s probably because they haven’t seen YOU wearing YOUR year pin(s). Set the appropriate example and you’ll see others — youth and adult — doing likewise.

  22. Bryan, my question is posed for youth tenure, specifically for the Webelos to Scout program transfer.

    I joined as a Tiger in August 1993, but I crossed over to the Boy Scouts in March 1998 when I was eligible. I spent a full 4 years in Cub Scouts and a few months, does this mean my fifth year will have a green backing, even though I had only spent five months as a boy scout? I currently only wear one 20 year pin, but it would be nice to show my full program tenures.

    • Andrew, I see that Bryan didn’t answer your question; please allow me to do so for him.

      If you spent a few years and a couple of months as a Cub Scout, you have two options. One, to do what I do when I wear my Cub and Scout year pins and “round up” to the next year (I spent two year, ten months as a Cub Scout before I turned 11 and eligible for Boy Scouts; I spent 6 years and eleven months as a Boy Scout until my 18th birthday. I wear a “3” and a “7” year pin, respectively.

      Or I could have counted “full years” and wear a “2” and “6” year pin respectively. Either way, YOU know the exact tenure (or close enough to it) to wear the appropriate year pin.

      In your case, you would wear a Cub Scout tenure pin with the number “4” with a yellow backing; and your Boy Scout tenure started whenever you became a Boy Scout and every year afterwards would be “one year”. You wouldn’t wear a one year pin if all of the time you spent in Boy Scouting was five months.

      Hope that helps!

  23. Bryan, Thanks for posting this, it is definitely something that a lot of people gaze over, but I know when I was in Cub Scouts and the Field Director came in to do a scout talk, they were one of my favorite parts of his uniform.

  24. I understand years as a Cub Scout, committee chair, cub leader and scout master can be combined without adding overlap to be 12 years. But I assume my “other” 9 years as a volunteer adult helping at meetings and attending camp but not being a registered scouter wouldn’t count. I wish I filled out the adult application even though I thought at the time I wasn’t ready to hold an official position. A 20 year pin would be nice to have on my uniform.

  25. Gary wrote and asked: “OK, so someone who registered primarily as a Den Leader (registered as an adult with a pack) and also registered with a troop as a “multiple” doesn’t get to “double count” those years.”

    True that. We adults count our tenure — whether volunteer or professional, unit, district, council, regional or national — one year at a time *smiling* We spend one year at a time as a BSA adult.

    “What about individuals who have two primary registrations?

    Such as someone between 18 and 21 who is two primary registrations – one as an assistant Scoutmaster (with a primary adult registration with a Boy Scout Troop) and one as a member of a Venturing Crew (with a primary youth registration with a crew)?”

    Two separate catagories. As an Assistant Scoutmaster, I start “racking up” adult tenure when I turned 18 and are registered as an adult volunteer.

    As a Venturer, I start “racking up” tenure when I became a Venturer until my 21st birthday.

    The key is knowing *when you were registered* so that you can keep track of your own tenure. For instance, I became an Explorer (back in the day) on August 3, 1973 and remained registered as an Explorer until 1979, when I registered as an Associate Advisor (adult). I wear a 6 year service star with a red background to denote my years as an Explorer.

    (sub in “Venturer” for “Explorer” and move the years up to “2003” and “2009” and you get the same deal with today’s Venturers.)

  26. I first came to Scouting in college. I joined a Venturing Crew at the age of 18 and dual-registered as an Assistant Scoutmaster for a Scoutreach troop around the same time. I’m about to turn 22. I was a Venturer for 3 years (a very active youth member of my crew and even served as crew president)…and have been an active trained adult leader for 4 years now too.

    I’d like to be able to show people that I have 3 years experience as a “participant” in the BSA program and 4 years experience as an adult leader. However, it sounds like I can’t wear a red 3 and a blue 4. My options are either a blue 4 (which doesn’t show my experience as a youth in Scouting) or a red 3 and a blue 1 (which makes it seem like I only have 1 year experience as a leader, when I have 4!)

    • Hi James!!

      If you were registered as a Venturer for three years, you should wear a three year pin with a red backing. And if you were registered as an adult (Assistant Scoutmaster in your personal case) for four years, you should wear a four year pin with a blue backing. In your personal case, the years don’t overlap because you were registered as a youth at the same time you were registered as an adult. Two separate catagories. Remember the purpose behind the tenure/year pin is to visually show your tenure in various aspects of Scouting — Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Venturer/Sea Scout and/or as an adult.

      • But wearing both a 3-year Venturering (red) pin and 4-year leader (blue) pin gives the illusion that I’ve been in the BSA for 7 years. when I’ve only been in the BSA for 4 years. I thought the pins had to add up to number of years.

        • James wrote and asked: “But wearing both a 3-year Venturing (red) pin and 4-year leader (blue) pin gives the illusion that I’ve been in the BSA for 7 years. when I’ve only been in the BSA for 4 years. I thought the pins had to add up to number of years.”

          Who said that? If I wore a three year Cub Scout service star; a seven year Boy Scout service star; and a seven year “older youth program” service star…it doesn’t mean that I have been in Scouting for 17 years!! It just means that I’ve spent that period of time in that particular program, that’s all.

          And Big Lou wrote and asked: “What about “Explorers” before the modern day Venturing? I was an “Explorer” and I assume they would wear the red backing.”

          They do. There are some cases whereby someone may wear TWO service stars with the same (red) backing — a two or three year service star with a red backing representing their time as an Explorer; and another two or three year service star with a red backing representing their time as a Venturer. It’s a great conversation piece, like the two blue and gold square knots with blue background I wear on a uniform shirt. I get a lot of “you can’t wear two of the same thing” comments.

          Well, you can if the BSA did an “oops”. I earned the old Den Leader Coach Training Award; and later when it was accidently renamed (attention to detail, staffers, please!!) as the emblem representing the Cub Scouter (Training) Award, the BSA said “our bad — you CAN wear them both BUT ONLY THIS AWARD as an exception to policy.”

          (it wasn’t the only mistakes…and Lord knows we ALL make them!! This page on the Badge and Uniform Site explains them all…the two “of the same knot emblem” appears on the bottom of the page…. )

  27. Greetings Bryan, My name is Les Salay and I am a moderator for the scouts for some time now and I like you am giving out useful information to those on my E-Mailing list. Not to many people know about your blog but they are VERY IMPORTANT to pass along to other. I am asking for your permission to send out “some” of your blogs . I am in the West Los Angeles County Council (WLACC) and you mailings are fantastic and goo to pass to others. The topic of the pins is very useful as not many of our scouters even know what a star is. I will take bits and pieces of you Blog (verbatim) and not alter the intent of your postings Thank either way, Les Salay

  28. If it is this difficult to understand intuitively, then the service star system is badly designed and should be overhauled.

  29. Me stated: “If it is this difficult to understand intuitively, then the service star system is badly designed and should be overhauled.”

    No, the “Tenure pin” has been designed from the start to be a UNIT PROGRAM. Each and every unit does this a bit differently. The only BSA guidance is the color of the backings, the fact one-“year” equals one service star, and where they are worn on the field uniforms.

    • The market has spoken, Mike. Lack of use and the necessity of a two page article to explain them is evidence the service stars don’t work for people.

      The colors of the backings make no sense. Why would boy scouts wear pine green backings? That has never been a color that represents the boy scouts. Explorers uses red. But if you look at the Webelos colors – they use gold for cubs, red for boy scouts, and green for explorers. Then the brown backing for varsity? What? Brown isn’t anywhere in the program at all. And what about the light blue for adults? Light blue representing what exactly?

      The pins need to be overhauled. Most people don’t wear them, and most people don’t have any idea what the backings represent. If it were up to me, the backings would be the same as the loops on your uniform – blue for cubs (adults or youth), olive for boy scouts (adults or youth), silver for district/council, and yellow for national. Or just make them all olive backed and not worry about the programs.

  30. As I recall, at one time there were nave blue (not adult light blue) and white service star backgrounds that contrasted with white and blue Sea Scout uniforms???

    • I don’t have any Sea Scouting records which reflect navy blue or white service star backings used for BSA programs. I believe that Girl Scouting at one time used white backings for their adults and blue backings for their Cadettes program.

  31. blank Stars.
    At one time, BSA had service stars without numbers and the Cub or Boy Scout just added another star each year. I do not know when (1950s?) or why BSA went over to having only numbered service stars.
    Admittedly, after several year the number of blank start could get out of hand on the youth’s uniform and might not be a good idea for adult Scouters past year one.
    But I think that the boys, especially CUBS, would take to wearing individual blank service star (with appropriate background circle) rather than just the most recent numbered service star. Call it “bling.”
    Something for National Supply to think about as an option for local units, especially packs.

    • An Old Scout wrote and asked: “At one time, BSA had service stars without numbers and the Cub or Boy Scout just added another star each year. I do not know when (1950s?) or why BSA went over to having only numbered service stars.”

      Actually, it was the middle 50s when the BSA decided on using numbered service stars. The first stars actually went from 1 to 40 (I have a 27 and a 31 year pin. I sometimes wear it to Scout Shows and people ask me about “how do they go about getting one with a specific number of years??” It does make it easier to wear.

      The “blank” or unnumbered year pins are STILL available, although it will be hard to find them. National Supply no longer stocks them (their stock went out somewhere around the turn of the century when the Den Chief tab no longer was in vogue. That, and the Youth Leadership in America medal were the only two places where the unnumbered service star was still being used back then…)

  32. What about “Explorers” before the modern day Venturing? I was an “Explorer” and I assume they would wear the red backing.

  33. When wearing several color backgrounds does blue go on the right with other colors decending to the left or does blue go on the left with colors decending to the right?

  34. If this is a unit program, how does one figure out each member’s initial registration date? It doesn’t appear in my.Scouting, unless I’ve overlooked something.

  35. Back a few years ago, Tiger Cubs and Coaches had an orange backing for their stars. Am I still allowed to wear my service star with an orange backing? I believe that it would fall into the category of wearing the red epelets.

  36. Years of Scouting – Do we account for years in Boy Scouts of [other country] too? Assuming that that Boy Scouts program is affiliated with a National Scouting Organization (NSO) recognized by World Scouting (like BSA is).

  37. This website is Fantastic!! It explains so much.
    I do have a quick question. For the service stars, does being a merit badge councilor count toward tenure? I am thinking it does not because it was not the primary calling.

  38. Who gives the service stars out. In our old pack, the boys got a service star on their year anniversary. We then moved, and I haven’t seen any service stars given out – to scouts or adults. Can I just order the appropriate stars and backings for my scouts? I would like to see them have them.

  39. I need a little clarity on the years of service. A boy starting out as Tiger and serving all the way through Webelos II should be awarded a 5-year service pin at bridging is that correct?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

  40. Here is one for you:

    I was involved as a Tiger Cub back when it was in it’s own program, Ironing paws on my T-shirt. I than entered Cub Scouts and went through the entire program, I than entered Boy Scouts and Completed that program and became an Eagle Scout, I than did a year in Venture Crew before becoming an adult leader. I have been an adult leader since 2004

    How do those stars align?! 🙂

    Thank You

  41. When I was I den leader I had trouble with the color backing it never seem to stay on and then when I lost it getting in and out of the car for Scouting for food, that was the last straw. I never got another one it was just too hard to keep on.

  42. Just looking for clarification on a fine point here: Say a Cub Scout started as a Wolf in August 2012 but just crossed over to Boy Scouts now, per local pack/troop tradition. He can definitely wear a 3-year star with gold backing, but can he wear a 4-year star? Technically, he wouldn’t get credit for the 4th year until August, but since he’s crossed over he’s no longer a Cub Scout and won’t get credit for his first year as a Boy Scout until 1 year from now. So do we “round up,” or “round down” his past partial year of Cub Scouts.

  43. Someone up there in the comments said that these service stars are “optional,” but I’m not sure that’s true. I’m planning a uniform inspection. I’m giving the Scouts copies of the uniform inspection sheet, and telling them to buddy up and score each other. A perfect uniform is worth 100 points. Having the insignia correct on the left pocket is worth 5 points. I think that if they are not wearing their service stats, they should loose a point.

    • Year (Tenure) pins are a UNIT OPTION, Howarthe. So if nobody in the uniform is wearing year pins, they should not be “docked” any points for not having them. The inspection is a UNIT inspection, not a national or local Council inspection.

      Now, if the unit is using the Year/Tenure pins and the Scout simply “forgot” to wear it/them, then the person conducting the inspection should find some way to annotate on the form that the item should be worn.

      Whether they should “lose a point” or not is up to the unit. It’s not a “national rule”.

  44. How about if the Leader was a boy scout in other country serving in diferent sections that are equal as cub scouts, troop and venturing, and now he serves as an adult in USA? Can he wore the servise stars?

  45. Hi, Sorry if this has already been answered, but I wasn’t sure: my son joined as a Tiger when he was 5 years old, at the end of kindergarten, in the Spring recruitment. He just finished AOL, bridged, & is joining a Boy Scout Troop. He was a Cub for 4 1/2 years – what number pin should he use: 4 or 5? Thanks!

  46. Hello,
    Mike Walton stated above: “Two items: first the Girl Scout “year pin” is of a different design and has different backings than the BSA’s “tenure” or “year” pin. If your Council’s Scout Executive says “okay”, there should be no issue with a former Girl Scout member to wear a SINGLE year pin with the total number of years spent as a Girl Scout. But *ask beforehand*, don’t assume that you can do this.”

    I’m in Dallas, TX. Short of me bothering Circle 10 Council, does anyone know if Circle 10 allows leaders with former Girl Scout experience to wear their Girl Scout year pin on their uniform? I’m rolling out Service Stars to recognize the tenure of leaders in our Pack, and I would like to recognize the youth scouting involvement of all of our leaders if it’s allowed. We have a mixture of men and women in our Den and Pack leadership.



  47. If a Cub Scout becomes a Boy Scout with with 3 years and 10 months of tenure, after the next two months does he wear a 4-year star with a gold background, or a 3-year star with a gold background and a 1-year star with a green background?

  48. What if I was only a Merit Badge Counselor and not a registered leader with an unit from 2010-2014? Would I be able to count those years for service?

  49. What if you are in different units at the same time. Troop for 5 years, venturer for 2 years, and varsity for 2 years. Can you wear 3 pins (a 5 and 2 2’s with the appropriate backing)?

    • Yes Peter, if your time is as a youth. If it is as an adult you don’t over lap your time and only use the blue back.

  50. Hi, in the 80′ the Canadian Venturing Crew (Boy Scout) admitted girls. Does that mean that I could wear a 2 years/red tab on my BSA Uniform?

  51. Will have to go and dig out some sea scout manuals if nobody here can verify. It seems to me there was a time when Sea Scouts wore stars with a dark blue background if they did not wear stripes for some reason. Also thought I read something about a different color for Air Scouts at one time. I have manuals somewhere, so can likely find the info. I know that at one time there were a lot of different backgrounds for square knots too, depending on the uniform. I had dark green and khaki for a long while. There also were actual tenure awards in the first 30 or forty years, an actual patch worn on the sleeve, as well as a pin. Have some five year examples in my stuff. Early stars were on felt also. Would have to go back a read about the stripes that were worn in early days. Some were for Sea Scouts, but it seems to me that very early on there might have been some for actual scouts.

  52. I think we should encourage our adult leaders to wear service stars, at least for the more ceremonial occasions. I don’t always put the pins on my Scout shirt, but for ceremonies and other special occasions I like to wear them – almost like a “dress uniform”. I prefer to use the individual colors: 3 on a yellow as a Cub, 4 on green as a Scout, two on red as an Explorer, and a 20 and a 2 on blue for my time as a Scouter. I think it is useful for Scouts to see that their leaders also participated as youth members of the various parts of Scouting, so I personally would not recommend leaders combining all their years into a single blue-backed pin. But the choice is obviously up to them.

  53. do your Girl Scout years count toward the years or no? Also can a cub leader wear her gold award on her uniform?

  54. My son has been in scouting every year he has been eligible, starting in first grade. He transferred Boy Scout troops last fall (to a patrol-based, active troop) and his new troop gave service stars out at a COH recently. We had never heard of them. He did not get one; there seems to be differing opinions on whether it is for involvement in a troop/unit or scouting in general (the above post starts with saying it is service to scouting, them switches language to “service to unit”).

    Should my son have one for all his cub years, then one that reflects all 3 of his boy scout years? He will be ASPL with no service pin with scouts younger than him with stars displaying more years. I’m confused on whether these are for scouting years or troop years.


  55. Hi!

    My son was in a pack for Tiger and then transferred to another pack two months into his time as a Wolf – so no break in his time as an active Scout. What service star should he have at this point (He’s now a brand new Bear)?


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