2019 merit badge rankings: Which were the most (and least) popular?


Originally posted at Bryan On Scouting blog by Bryan Wendell

The 52,328 young people who earned Camping in 2019 accounted for a 5% increase over 2018’s total.

Still, that wasn’t enough to unseat the First Aid merit badge, which extended its reign at No. 1 to five years. Camping also couldn’t pass the Swimming merit badge, which picked up the silver medal.

2019 was a big year for the American Business and Backpacking merit badges, too. The pair saw their earn totals skyrocket by 166% and 78%, respectively. The news wasn’t so great for the Plant Science merit badge (down 21%) or Dentistry merit badge (down 22%), however.

Let’s take a deep dive into the complete list — from 2019’s most popular merit badge to its rarest.

The actual top 10

Each merit badge in 2019’s top 10 has something in common: it’s required to earn the Eagle Scout award, Scouts BSA’s highest honor.

The BSA didn’t select its Eagle-required badges at random. Together, they represent a set of essential skills for life.

Rank Merit Badge 2019 earned
1 First Aid 62,352
2 Swimming 59,074
3 Camping 52,328
4 Citizenship in the World 50,700
5 Personal Fitness 49,802
6 Cooking 49,039
7 Personal Management 48,464
8 Citizenship in the Nation 48,182
9 Communication 48,117
10 Family Life 47,788


The bottom 10

The list excludes Computers (replaced by Digital Technology in 2014), even though 72 Scouts earned the Computers merit badge in 2019.

How is it possible to earn a discontinued merit badge? According to the Guide to Advancement, once a Scout starts working on a merit badge, there’s no time limit for finishing — other than the Scout’s 18th birthday. As long as a Scout began working on the Computers MB by Dec. 31, 2014, and hadn’t turned 18, he could earn the badge in 2019.

Is one of your favorite merit badges in the list below? If so, don’t get sad! Get going. Offer to serve as a merit badge counselor and breathe new life into one of the lesser-earned badges. Then come back to check the 2020 list next year and see how you did.

Rank Merit Badge 2019 earned
128 American Business 1,468
129 Gardening 1,440
130 Landscape Architecture 1,395
131 Composite Materials 1,383
132 Drafting 1,364
133 American Labor 1,298
134 Journalism 1,283
135 Surveying 987
136 Stamp Collecting 919
137 Bugling 453

As always Bryan Wendell has an excellent and well-researched article that shouldn’t be missed. Read it in its entirety here…