2023 merit badge rankings: A look into Scouts’ current interests and achievements

Merit badge sash

If you’re a Scout parent or leader who likes to keep a finger on the pulse of youth interests, the list you’ve been waiting for is here!

Once a year, we share our roundup of the most-earned merit badges from the last calendar year. And we just got the results from 2023.

In 2022, we saw the Citizenship in Society merit badge top the list as it launched its first full year as the newest Eagle-required badge. This year, things look similar. That is at least until we get farther down the list. Let’s take a look at the 2023 merit badge rankings.

The top 10 most-earned merit badges of 2023

Bolded below are badges that flipped rankings slightly but still remain close to where they were last year. To compare, check out our 2022 merit badge rankings.

2023 Rank Merit Badge
1 Citizenship in Society
2 First Aid
3 Swimming
4 Environmental Science
5 Citizenship in the World
6 Camping
7 Citizenship in the Nation
8 Personal Fitness 
9 Communication 
10 Cooking 

Yup, this list looks very close to last year’s. But now let’s view the list through another lens.

An alternative top 10

If we remove the merit badges Scouts are required to earn to achieve Eagle Scout, we see another top 10 list. There are more than 100 other badges Scouts can choose among. Here’s what topped those rankings.

2023 Rank Merit Badge
1 Fingerprinting
2 Chess
3 Archery
4 Rifle Shooting
5 Leatherwork
6 Wood Carving
7 Kayaking
8 Art
9 Fishing
10 Wilderness Survival

From last year, the Chess merit badge jumped up five spots! Otherwise, the changes were minor.

The rarest badges of 2023

There’s a realm of Scouts who live to earn the rarest badges. And we’ve got a list for them, too!

2023 Rank Merit Badge
129 Dentistry
130 Gardening
131 Energy
132 Stamp Collecting
133 Composite Materials 
134 American Labor
135 Surveying
136 Journalism
137 Drafting
138 Bugling

The Veterinary Medicine and Truck Transportation merit badges jumped out of the bottom 10, up 14 and 13 spots respectively. These least-earned badges saw a bit of shake up this year, proving Scouts’ interests change even from one year to the next.

Top gains of the year

Some badges made a leap in the ranks. In fact, the Collections merit badge was earned by 1,000 more Scouts in 2023!

Here are more notable gains.

2023 Rank Merit Badge 2022 Rank Difference
116 Veterinary Medicine 130 14
82 Mining in Society 95 13
118 Truck Transportation 131 13
109 Genealogy 120 11
96 Exploration 106 10
48 Pottery 57 9
66 Railroading 75 9
79 Collections 88 9
104 Model Design and Building 113 9
112 American Business 121 9

The complete 2023 merit badge rankings

The green text in the table below indicates a merit badge is one required to earn Eagle Scout. Eagle Scouts must earn a total of 21 merit badges, including these 14:

  1. First Aid
  2. Citizenship in the Community
  3. Citizenship in the Nation
  4. Citizenship in Society
  5. Citizenship in the World
  6. Communication
  7. Cooking
  8. Personal Fitness
  9. Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
  10. Environmental Science OR Sustainability
  11. Personal Management
  12. Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
  13. Camping
  14. Family Life

 

2023 Rank Merit Badge 2022 Rank Rank  Difference
1 Citizenship in Society 1
2 First Aid 2
3 Swimming 3
4 Environmental Science 4
5 Citizenship in the World 5
6 Camping 6
7 Citizenship in the Nation 8 1
8 Personal Fitness 10 2
9 Communication 7 -2
10 Cooking 9 -1
11 Personal Management 11
12 Fingerprinting 12
13 Citizenship in the Community 13
14 Family Life 15 1
15 Emergency Preparedness 14 -1
16 Chess 21 5
17 Archery 17
18 Rifle Shooting 16 -2
19 Leatherwork 18 -1
20 Wood Carving 20
21 Kayaking 19 -2
22 Art 23 1
23 Fishing 24 1
24 Wilderness Survival 22 -2
25 Canoeing 25
26 Shotgun Shooting 26
27 Lifesaving 28 1
28 Climbing 27 -1
29 Space Exploration 29
30 Astronomy 31 1
31 Photography 32 1
32 Mammal Study 30 -2
33 Aviation 35 2
34 Geology 33 -1
35 Basketry 34 -1
36 Welding 39 3
37 Small Boat Sailing 36 -1
38 Metalwork 42 4
39 Engineering 41 2
40 Nature 37 -3
41 Pioneering 43 2
42 Robotics 44 2
43 Game Design 38 -5
44 Weather 47 3
45 Chemistry 45
46 Music 52 6
47 Automotive Maintenance 51 4
48 Pottery 57 9
49 Sculpture 49
50 Fire Safety 53 3
51 Geocaching 48 -3
52 Orienteering 50 -2
53 Indian Lore 40 -13
54 Horsemanship 55 1
55 Forestry 56 1
56 Fish & Wildlife Management 54 -2
57 Search and Rescue 46 -11
58 Signs, Signals, and Codes 58
59 Animation 60 1
60 Moviemaking 64 4
61 Oceanography 61
62 Electricity 62
63 Motor Boating 59 -4
64 Electronics 65 1
65 Sustainability  63 -2
66 Railroading 75 9
67 Snow Sports 68 1
68 Nuclear Science 71 3
69 Hiking 69
70 Digital Technology 74 4
71 Disabilities Awareness 76 5
72 Pulp and Paper 66 -6
73 Salesmanship 72 -1
74 Soil and Water Conservation 67 -7
75 Scouting Heritage 82 7
76 Radio 81 5
77 Traffic Safety 73 -4
78 Public Speaking 77 -1
79 Collections 88 9
80 Rowing 70 -10
81 Archaeology 78 -3
82 Mining in Society 95 13
83 Reptile and Amphibian Study 79 -4
84 Crime Prevention 83 -1
85 American Heritage 87 2
86 Bird Study 80 -6
87 Pets 86 -1
88 Sports 93 5
89 Law 90 1
90 Painting 84 -6
91 Woodwork 85 -6
92 Entrepreneurship 94 2
93 Architecture 91 -2
94 Coin Collecting 92 -2
95 Programming 96 1
96 Exploration 106 10
97 Cycling 89 -8
98 Fly Fishing 98
99 Animal Science 99
100 Plumbing 97 -3
101 Scholarship 100 -1
102 Reading 104 2
103 Backpacking 102 -1
104 Model Design and Building 113 9
105 Textile 105
106 Whitewater 101 -5
107 Insect Study 108 1
108 Safety 103 -5
109 Genealogy 120 11
110 Dog Care 111 1
111 Graphic Arts 109 -2
112 American Business 121 9
113 Theater 118 5
114 Home Repairs 107 -7
115 Veterinary Medicine 129 14
116 Plant Science 117 1
117 Inventing 112 -5
118 Truck Transportation 131 13
119 American Cultures 119
120 Skating 125 5
121 Golf 114 -7
122 Farm Mechanics 116 -6
123 Medicine/Health Care Professions 115 -8
124 Water Sports 122 -2
125 Public Health 110 -15
126 SCUBA Diving 123 -3
127 Athletics 125 -2
128 Landscape Architecture 128
129 Dentistry 132 3
130 Gardening 126 -4
131 Energy 127 -4
132 Stamp Collecting 133 1
133 Composite Materials 130 -3
134 American Labor 134
135 Surveying 136 1
136 Journalism 135 -1
137 Drafting 137
138 Bugling 138

Who helps us gather this info?

Thank you to Scouts BSA’s Garfield Murden for supplying our merit badge rankings data!


About Gina Circelli 51 Articles
Gina Circelli is the senior digital editor for Scout Life. She loves sharing news about Scouts who shake up pop culture or contribute to their communities in big ways.