Of the 21 merit badges that a Scout must earn before achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, 13 are required. That means only 8 of the 21 merit badges are elective. If you are a Scout that intends to earn Eagle Rank, then it is a good idea to concentrate on the thirteen Eagle-Required merit badges starting early in your Scouting career. The electives will fall into place as you attend summer camp or perhaps other events. So, keep focused on these important 13 Eagle-required merit badges and not the electives.
Let’s talk about those 13 merit badges, and perhaps the best time and place to earn them.
Swimming, Environmental Science, Communications, First Aid, Cooking, Lifesaving: No better place than summer camp. If you are a swimmer, you will be passing a swimming test your first day at camp. Might as well keep going and get the Swimming merit badge! (If you are not a swimmer, this is absolutely the best place to learn. I taught swimming to non-swimmers as a lifeguard at a Scout camp many years ago. I had every boy swimming within a week.) Many camps have an age limit for Lifesaving, so this might be delayed until your third or fourth season at summer camp. There are alternatives for Swimming and Lifesaving, but I personally recommend these two merit badges. I believe that every person should know how to swim, and also how to rescue someone in the water. Environmental Science, First Aid, Cooking and Communications are also a natural for camp, and all three should be earned early on your advancement trail. Not a bad idea to use four of these merit badges for your Star advancement.
Family Life is a merit badge that should be earned as young Scout. It is fairly easy, requiring a couple of family projects and a family meeting. (This is one of the “90-day” merit badges. You must keep a record of your chores for 90 days, so there is no way to earn the merit badge in less than that time. If you are seventeen years old and have not earned this merit badge, you MUST start the merit badge at least three months before your 18th birthday, or you will not be able to earn Eagle Rank.)
Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World: Citizenship in the Community is a complex merit badge, requiring an interview of a public official, attendance at school or town board meeting, and eight hours of community service to an organization that you have identified and interviewed. Citizenship in the Nation is easier, requiring only one trip, but requires a reasonable knowledge of our government and how it works. Citizenship in the World is what I call a “homework” merit badge. You can earn the entire merit badge by reading the merit badge pamphlet and answering the questions. (I had one Scout earn this merit badge in one 35-minute session with me. He was a history buff and really knew his material.) All three citizenship merit badges can be earned at any age, but they are probably easier for a Scout of 13 years or older.
Camping: You will earn this over the course of several years camping with your troop. A total of 20 nights of camping are required, only 7 of which may be summer camp. Keep good track of all your camping trips in your Scout handbook!
Personal Fitness and Personal Management: These two merit badges are the most important ones for launching yourself into adulthood, and should be the last Eagle-required merit badges earned. They are “real world” and require a lot of work. And they are also the two other “90-day” merit badges, requiring a log of personal fitness activities and a journal of income and expenses for 3 months.
You can download the workbooks for all these merit badges on this website. Go to the “Merit Badge” tab at the top, click “13 Eagle Required Merit Badges”, and then scroll down the the merit badge you want to click and download the workbook.