Ask the Expert: Wood Badge course numbering, decoded

expertlogo1W2-590-14-8, C6-160-14-2, S4-83-14-2, N4-527-14.

Are those nuclear launch codes? A paranoid person’s computer password? Some sort of weird locker combination?

Nope. Those four sets of characters describe the numbers of actual Wood Badge courses being offered in 2014.

And in reality, the code — found on every modern Wood Badge course — isn’t that difficult to crack.

The letter represents your Scouting region — Western, Central, Southern or Northeast. The number is your area. Then comes your council number (which you can find here), followed by the two-digit year. (Notice that all four examples above have “14” in common because they’re all held in 2014.)

The final number is added only if a council is offering multiple Wood Badge courses in a single calendar year. If so, they’re numbered chronologically. The first course in 2014 would get a 1 on the end, the second a 2 and so on.

Example time. Let’s take the Wood Badge course I staffed last summer: course No. S2-571-13-3.

That’s: S for Southern Region, 2 for Area 2, 571 for Circle Ten Council’s number, 13 for the year 2013 and 3 because the course was the third Circle Ten course of the calendar year.

Are you more of a visual person? Well here’s a handy chart for you:


But recently Scouter C. J. Johnson noticed an extra, unexplained letter in a course number used by a council.

Here’s his question:

Hopefully you can clarify something for me. For the Wood Badge course numbering convention, I understand that course numbers are determined by: Region, Area, Council, Year, and sequential number of the course during the year. So…hypothetically, the third course this year in the Cascade Pacific Council would be W1-492-14-3.

My question is, in a number of courses I’ve seen, there is an “E” in the course number. Such as: WE1-492-14-3. What does the “E” mean? I’ve heard that it stands for “a split, weekend course” whereas the lack of the “E” designates a six-day, week long course. However, I’ve seen split courses without the “E” as well.

To “E”, or not to “E”…that is the question.

Nice question. For the answer I went to Mark Griffin, director of learning delivery for Scouting University here at BSA HQ.

While there have been many Wood Badge course numbering variations over the years, back in the days when there were more than four regions and some of their names started with the same letter, two letters were used to indicate the region in the numbering system for courses.

Even when that conflict was no longer an issue, the regions, which assigned the numbers in those days, kept a two-letter designation.

When the Southeast Region, “SE,” and the South Central Region, “SC,” became the Southern Region, “SR” was used.

East Central, “EC,” and North Central, “NC,” became the Central Region and used “CR.”

Western kept “WE,” and Northeast kept “NE.”

After the region offices closed, the official course numbers have been assigned by the national council, and the current system is to use just the first letter of the region name, followed by the area number, the council number, and the last two digits of the year. If a council has more than one course in a given year an additional 1, 2, 3, etc. is added at the end.

There is no difference in the numbering for weeklong and weekend courses.

Thanks, Mark.

So, C.J., what it looks like you were seeing was someone still using the older-style course numbering convention. “WE” was at one time used for Western region courses, but the current style is to just use the W. The “E” is unnecessary.

And so, as Mark points out, there’s no way to differentiate a weeklong course from a weekend course just by looking at a course number.

Hope that helps!

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