Some merit badges can be completed in a weekend; others take a little longer.
But what happens when a Boy Scout — for whatever reason — stretches the time between starting and finishing a merit badge to 12 months, 18 months, 3 years or longer?
In other words: Is there a time limit for completing a merit badge?
That’s what a Scouter named Jim wondered.
Once a boy begins a merit badge, is there a certain time period in which he needs to have it finished, other than by his 18th birthday?
In our council we have always been told that they have 18 months to earn them, and then if they are not completely finished in that time that they have to start all over again.
The expert’s answer
The short answer: There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge except for the Boy Scout’s 18th birthday.
Mike Lo Vecchio of the BSA’s Content Management Team offers more explanation:
There are a couple of areas in the Guide to Advancement that speak to this.
The text box under topic 18.104.22.168 states: “All merit badge requirements must be met while a registered Boy Scout or Varsity Scout, or a qualified Venturer or Sea Scout.” Although not explicitly stated, it is implied there are no time limits with the exception of the 18th birthday.
Under topic 22.214.171.124, it states: “… any registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified Venturer or Sea Scout may work on any of them at any time.” Again, although not explicitly stated, it is implied there are no time limits with the exception of the 18th birthday.
Under topic 126.96.36.199 (Partial Completions), it states in part “Partials have no expiration except the Scout’s 18th birthday.”
And finally, under topic 188.8.131.52 (What to do When Requirements Change), last paragraph, it states: “There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge, although a counselor may determine so much time has passed since any effort took place that the new requirements must be used.”
That final paragraph (184.108.40.206) only applies to merit badges with new requirements. So only in the case where a merit badge’s requirements change and “so much time has passed since any effort took place” may a merit badge counselor ask a Scout to start again with the new requirements.
Otherwise, the overall rules of no time limit apply.
Hope that helps!