What’s the highest award in every Boy Scouts of America program?

Insignia for the highest Scouting ranks: Arrow of Light, Eagle Scout, Summit Award and Quartermaster Award

It’s not about the patch or the medal or even that epic cake at the ceremony. It’s about all the incredible Scouting adventures that preceded them.

Scouting awards — from the very first Cub Scout adventure loop to that final Eagle Palm and beyond — are physical representations of the Scouting journey. There are dozens of awards in Scouting, but each BSA program (Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouts) has one that towers above the rest.

Each of these pinnacle awards has requirements expertly crafted to guide young people toward new experiences, build confidence and impart essential life skills.

Before we get to the list, a word of warning to your Scouts or Venturers: These awards aren’t easy to earn. They’ll take a lot of work. But because Scouting is rooted in fun and adventure, this work never feels like work — a fact that makes earning one of these amazing awards even sweeter.

What is the highest award in Cub Scouts?

The highest award in Cub Scouts is the Arrow of Light. It’s earned by Webelos Scouts who are active for at least six months, earn five adventures and complete other requirements.

Complete requirements: Here

Recognition items for youth:

  • The award’s official symbol is the Arrow of Light patch worn below the left pocket. It’s the only Cub Scout patch that can be carried over into Scouts BSA and worn on the Scouts BSA uniform.
  • Packs may choose to recognize Arrow of Light recipients with optional plaques, certificates, hiking staff shields and more.

Recognition items for adults: A red, green and yellow Arrow of Light square knot, worn above the left pocket, signals that the wearer earned the rank as a Cub Scout.

Good to know: Arrow of Light is the highest Cub Scout rank — after Bobcat, Tiger, Wolf, Bear and Webelos. But young people don’t have to proceed through the ranks like in Scouts BSA. Any Cub Scout who is an active member of their Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade or for at least six months since becoming 10 years old is eligible to work toward Arrow of Light.

Further reading: Scouting magazine has some picture-perfect craft ideas designed for events like Arrow of Light ceremonies.

What is the highest award in Scouts BSA?

The highest award in Scouts BSA is the Eagle Scout Award. It’s earned by young people who work their way through the Scouts BSA ranks, earn at least 21 merit badges, hold leadership positions in their unit, and plan and lead a massive service project.

Complete requirements: Here

Recognition items for youth:

  • The Eagle Scout Award has two official symbols: the oval Eagle rank emblem, worn on the left pocket of the uniform shirt, and the Eagle medal, worn above the left pocket flap. These are restricted items, meaning they’re available only in the local council trading post or Scout Shop with the required paperwork.
  • Troops may wish to recognize their Eagle Scouts with some of the items found in the Scout Shop’s Eagle Scout collection.

Recognition items for adults: A red, white and blue Eagle Scout square knot, worn above the left pocket, signals that the wearer is an Eagle Scout.

Good to know:

  • Some requirements for the Eagle Scout Award must be completed over many months, meaning Eagle Scout hopefuls will want to keep an eye on the calendar so they don’t run out of time.
  • Venturers and Sea Scouts can earn the Eagle Scout Award, too. If they earn the First Class rank as a Scout in a troop or as a Lone Scout, they can continue working up to their 18th birthday toward the Star, Life and Eagle Scout ranks and Eagle Palms.

Further reading:

What is the highest award in Venturing?

The highest award in Venturing is the Summit Award. It’s earned by young people who show growth in their personal direction, skills and life competencies, and who accept the responsibility to mentor others and serve their communities.

Complete requirements: Here

Recognition items for youth: The Summit Award is represented by a white and green medal worn above the left pocket and a patch worn on the left pocket. These are restricted items, meaning they’re available only in the local council trading post or Scout Shop with the required paperwork.

Recognition items for adults: A white, silver and green Venturing Summit square knot, worn above the left pocket, signals that the wearer earned the Summit Award or its predecessor, the Silver Award.

Good to know: The Summit Award replaced the Silver Award, which was discontinued in 2014.

Further reading: Reach the apex of knowledge with this Scouting magazine explainer about the Summit Award. Read five things one Summit Award recipient learned as a Venturer.

What is the highest award in Sea Scouts?

The highest award in Sea Scouts is the Quartermaster Award. It’s earned by young people who think analytically about Sea Scouting, show significant on-the-water skills, complete a service project and demonstrate their ability to command a vessel on a long expedition.

Complete requirements: Here

Recognition items for youth: The Quartermaster Award medal and Quartermaster emblem, worn on the left pocket, represent this pinnacle award of Sea Scouts. These are restricted items, meaning they’re available only in the local council trading post or Scout Shop with the required paperwork.

Recognition items for adults: A black and white Quartermaster square knot, worn above the left pocket, signals that the wearer earned the Quartermaster Award.

Good to know: Think of the Sea Scout Program Toolbox as the wind behind your ship’s sails. It’s full of volunteer-created ideas for Sea Scouts.

Further reading: Read about the mechanics of advancement in Sea Scouting and learn just how rare this award is.

About Bryan Wendell 3031 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.