By Annaleis Smith
Aug 23, 2016

Mechanics of Advancement in Cub Scouting

CubScout_4KThis article will take a quick look at the mechanics of advancement in Cub Scouting. Think of it as “How-To Advance in Cub Scouting.” Most of the information was taken directly from the BSA’s Guide to Advancement.  I have added a few notes and re-worded a few things. I hope this will help you understand the basics of how a boy goes about earning his ranks in the Cub Scout program.

Delivering the Cub Scout Program

Den leaders, Cubmasters, and their assistants conduct the meetings and implement the three steps in Cub Scout advancement: preparation, qualification, and recognition. Four separate den leader guides—one each for the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear programs, and one combined for Webelos and Arrow of Light—explain the mechanics for doing so while helping to maximize advancement. Den meetings—ideally three per month, one of which may include an outing, are designed to result in advancement for all boys. To achieve a full experience and the greatest impact, incorporate at-home projects to challenge and encourage parents and sons to work together. Packs should meet monthly to assure timely recognition of the Cub Scouts’ accomplishments.

The Role of the Pack Committee

Pack Committee on logThe responsibility for Cub Scout advancement administration belongs to a pack committee. The pack committee collects den advancement reports, compiles and maintains them in pack records, and reports advancement to the council through internet advancement. They purchase awards and ensure their prompt presentation as well as help plan and facilitate various ceremonies. The committee may also recommend special pack activities

Consult the Cub Scout Leader Book to learn more about the full responsibilities of the pack committee and other pack leaders.

Who Approves Cub Scout Advancement?

If an activity is completed outside of the den meeting, the parent, adult partner, or another trusted adult should sign in the boy’s handbook, indicating the Cub Scout has done his best to complete the requirement. The den leader then approves that requirement after consultation with the family or the boy to confirm completion. If the requirement is completed in a den meeting, the den leader signs in both places. Den leaders may, however, ask an assistant or parent who helps at meetings to play the role of “Akela” and assist with the approvals. For Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks, the den leader signs for approval of all requirements, unless the den leader delegates this responsibility.

Signature spot in new Tiger Handbook

Signature spots in Handbook – For Akela and the Den Leader to sign

Akela (Ah-KAY-la) is a title of respect used in Cub Scouting—any good leader is Akela.

“Do Your Best”

Cub Scouts—even those of the same age—may have very different developmental timetables. For this reason, advancement performance in Cub Scouting is centered on its motto: “Do Your Best.” When a boy has done this—his very best—then regardless of the requirements for any rank or award, it is enough; accomplishment is noted. This is why den leaders, assistants, and parents or guardians are involved in approvals. Generally, they know if the effort put forth is really the Cub Scout’s best.


The Cub Scout Motto

When a boy completes his advancement, he should be congratulated immediately and publicly. And though the badges of rank should be presented at the next pack meeting, it is best to present some items, such as adventure loops and pins, soon after they have been earned. They could be presented at a den meeting and the accompanying pocket certificates can be used in a ceremony at a subsequent pack meeting—or vice versa with the pocket certificates at a den meeting. However this is done, it is important to note that advancement is an individual process, not dependent on the work or progress of others. Awards should not be withheld for group recognition. Likewise, a boy should not be presented with recognition he has not earned simply so that he will “not feel left out.”

In the same spirit as “Do Your Best,” if a boy is close to earning a badge of rank when it’s time for him to move onto the next den, the pack committee, in consultation with the den leader and the Cub Scout’s parent or guardian, may allow him a few weeks to complete the badge before going on to the next rank. Earning it will give him added incentive to continue in Scouting and carry on and tackle the next rank.

Cub Scout Ranks

The Cub Scout program is centered primarily in the den, the home, and the neighborhood, but often takes place in the outdoors. It leads to advancement through the ranks. Which den he joins and which rank he pursues will depend on his current age or grade.

All Cub Scout Ranks

Cub Scout rank badges Lion thru Webelos

LDS chartered packs always use the age requirements and do not include Lions or Tigers in their packs.  Also, in an LDS pack both Webelos and Arrow of Light are worked on and earned while a boy is 10 years old, before turning 11.

Cub Scouts do not “go back” and work on ranks designed for earlier ages, even if missed due to their time of joining. Likewise, Cub Scouts do not “move ahead”  or work on the next rank until the appropriate age or grade is reached.


Lion-Header-170x200Lions is brand new – Fall of 2016.  I’m not going to write much about it here but do want to include them.  Lions are Kindergarten age, do not earn Bobcat rank, and must complete only 5 required adventures to earn the rank.  You can find out more details in my blog article about Lions here.


When a boy joins Cub Scouting, he will first earn the Bobcat rank. It has only 7 requirements that involve learning about the values, signs, and symbols of the Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouting. While he is working on his Bobcat he may work simultaneously on the adventures in his handbook, but he must finish the Bobcat requirements before any other rank is awarded.

Each rank has the same two basic requirements:

After earning Bobcat, each of the other five ranks in Cub Scouting is now earned by completing the same two basic requirements each year.

  1. Complete 7 Adventures*.  Which specific adventures as well as how many required vs how many electives will depend on which rank he is trying to earn (One required adventure will always be a Duty to God adventure).
  2. Parent Guide and Cyber Chip – Inside the front of every boy’s handbook is a 23 page booklet titled “Youth Protection: How to Protect Your Children From Childe Abuse, A Parent’s Guide”  This booklet has lots of information for parents to read and should help every parent understand the BSA Youth Protection guidelines (2 deep, no one-on-one, buddy system, and more). It also gives them 5 specific topics to talk with their child about. In addition to going through this with a child, the parent should help the child go online and earn the Cyber Chip for Cub Scouts (learn more about both of these in my linked blog articles).
Youth Protection Parent's Guide Cub Scout Cyber Chip

Tiger, Wolf, and Bear

For Tiger, Wolf, and Bear ranks—the boy completes seven adventures. Six of those adventures are required and one is chosen from the electives available for each rank. “Adventures” are collections of themed, multidisciplinary activities representing approximately three den meetings. Elective and required adventures may be undertaken at the same time. As the boys finish an adventure, they are awarded an adventure loop that is worn on the official Cub Scout belt. Adventure loops should be presented as soon as possible. When the requirements for each rank are fulfilled, the rank badge is presented at the next pack meeting. (Note – although participation with an adult partner is required for all Tiger adventures, recognition items are for the Cub Scouts only.)  Specific requirements for completion of each adventure can be found in the individual handbooks as well as in the den leader guidebooks.

Adventure Loops

You can easily tell for which rank an adventure loop is earned by its coloring. You can also tell if it is required or an elective. Above is shown a wolf required and elective and a bear required and elective.

Webelos and Arrow of Light

Just as with the other ranks, completion of seven adventures for each rank are required to earn the Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks. For the Webelos, five adventures are required and two are elective. For the Arrow of Light rank four adventures are required and three are elective. There is a pool of 18 electives available that are shared and chosen from for both ranks.  Note – According to the modifications released by the BSA on Dec 1, 2016,  Webelos rank and Arrow of Light ranks now require the required adventures (5 and 4) plus at least one more elective adventure per rank. (For more details on the program modifications see

Adventure Pins

2 Webelos Required, 1 Arrow of Light Required. and 1 elective adventure pins. Each pin has it’s own shape.

An adventure pin is awarded for each completed adventure. These may be worn on the Webelos colors or on the front of the Webelos cap. The boys are free to work on required and elective adventure pins at the same time. Adventure pins should be presented as soon as possible. When the requirements for the Webelos or Arrow of Light ranks are fulfilled, the rank badge is presented at the next pack meeting.


Webelos Diamond worn on blue shirt

Webelos Oval

Webelos Oval worn on tan shirt

The Arrow of Light is Cub Scouting’s final rank before Boy Scouts. Much of the experience gives the Cub Scouts the chance to practice skills that prepare them to become Boy Scouts. Once completed, the rank should be presented during an impressive ceremony involving Scouts from a local Scout troop. Their involvement may encourage the eventual “bridging” of recipients into the troop. The Arrow of Light rank is the only Cub Scout badge authorized to be worn on the Boy Scout uniform once a boy transitions into a troop; it is worn below the left pocket. On an adult uniform, the Arrow of Light rank is recognized with a red and green square knot worn above the left pocket.

Arrow of Light

Arrow of Light

Webelos and Arrow of Light Adventure Pin Counselors

Many adventure pins help Webelos Scouts develop interests in areas that may lead to hobbies or career choices. The Webelos den leaders and assistants, as well as the den chief, may handle portions of instruction during meetings. But some pins will have more meaning when a knowledgeable adventure pin “counselor” works with the boys on the requirements, providing resources, leading field trips, and giving other useful service. A parent or family member, pack leader, teacher, coach, or other adult with talents or skills related to the specific pin may serve in this capacity. A local Scoutmaster or the district advancement chair may be able to help identify merit badge counselors who might be able to help with related adventure pins.

Remember…Advancement isn’t everything!

Remember, not only do boys learn and advance at different rates but some will not advance (earn a rank) at all—and that’s okay.  Advancement is just one of the methods of Cub Scouting, not THE reason a boy joins. Keep the actual purposes of Cub Scouting in mind and you can’t go wrong. If a boy is making friends, having adventures and having fun… Cub Scouting is still a great thing with much to offer!

Annaleis SmithAnnaleis Smith – is a “stay at home” mother of 5 children. She has been a Cub Scout leader for the past 13 years in various positions and is currently a Cubmaster, Unit Commissioner, and the VP of Membership for the Utah National Parks Council (heading up the Lion and Tiger initiative in the UNPC) Cub Scouting is for every boy!

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4 thoughts on “Mechanics of Advancement in Cub Scouting

  1. AvatarLeah Overson

    A volunteer was in today who wasn’t sure about presenting adventure achievements before the Bobcat Rank is finished. From what I read, it seems that the adventures are presented independent of ranks. Is that true?

    1. Annaleis SmithAnnaleis Smith Post author

      Yes, a boy can and should be awarded adventure loops or pins for any adventures he has completed even if he has not yet earned his Bobcat. Ideally boys earn their Bobcat rank soon after joining Cub Scouts but sometimes they don’t. The most common reason they don’t is that the parents have not completed the activities in the parent guide with them yet. Everything else can pretty much be done in one or two den meetings.

    1. AvatarMadison Austin

      Yes! Boys are encouraged to explore as many of the electives for their rank as they wish, either in their den or with their family.


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