Scout is the first rank in scouting and is awarded when the youth demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of Scouting skills and ideals such as tying a square knot and knowing the Scout oath, law, motto, and slogan.
Tenderfoot is the second rank a scout can earn. A Scout can work on the requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks at the same time, but each rank must be earned in sequence. The badge is awarded when the Scout completes requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth, and Scout Spirit. The badge is similar to that of the Scout rank with it adding an eagle and two stars.
Second Class is the rank above Tenderfoot and below First Class. A Scout can work on the requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks at the same time, but must be earned in sequence. The badge is awarded when the Scout completes requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.
First Class is the rank above Second Class and below Star Scout. A Scout can work on the requirements for the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks at the same time, but must earn them in sequence. The badge is awarded when the Scout completes requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit. At this point, Scouts shift focus from learning physical Scouting method to start developing leadership skills.
Originally, First Class was the all around Scout and the final and highest rank. Later ranks were originally recognitions of earning merit badges beyond First Class, and not properly ranks. Now these additional ranks form a second tier where Scouts can further develop leadership skills and explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program.
Although Eagle is the highest rank and one all Scouts should strive for, the number of Scouts achieving First Class within one year of joining is still one of the key measures of unit effectiveness. Studies purportedly have shown that if a Scout achieves First Class within a year of joining, he typically stays in the Scout program for at least three years. Scouts who do so are purportedly more likely to retain Scout values as an adult and achieve the BSA primary mission of "producing useful citizens".
From 1972 to 1990, the First Aid merit badge was required for First Class rank. After 1990, this was replaced with a series of requirements to demonstrate awareness of advanced first aid techniques, including CPR. A sixth merit badge was added to the requirement for Star rank at that time to maintain its overall requirement of 21 merit badges, and First Aid is still one of the merit badges that is mandatory for Eagle Scout.
Star is the rank above First Class and below Life Scout. It is the third-highest rank. Star is awarded when the Scout serves actively in the troop, team or crew in a position of responsibility for at least 4 months; performs at least six hours of community service; and earns six merit badges (four of which must be among the 13 required for Eagle Scout rank).
Initially, the Life badge was awarded for five merit badges and the Star badge was awarded for ten. The order was reversed in the 1920s when it was decided that the five-pointed star of Star Scout better represented the five merit badges required for first rank above First Class. That symbolism disappeared when the number of merit badges required for Star was increased to six in 1990.
Life is the second-highest rank attainable, above Star and below Eagle. Life is awarded when the Scout serves actively in the troop, team or crew, serves in a position of responsibility for six months, and performs six hours of community service. A Scout must also earn five merit badges (at least three of which must be required for the rank of Eagle) for a total of 11, including the six previously earned. Finally, the Scout must pass a Scoutmaster conference, and board of review.
Life was originally lower than Star, and originally required earning five specific merit badges concerned with health and fitness (First Aid, Lifesaving, Public Health, Personal Health and Athletics). The ranks were switched in the 1920s, following a decision to recognize the five-pointed star as a symbol of the five badges needed to earn that rank. The Life heart came to symbolize achievement in health and fitness, as the First Aid merit badge was required for both Life and Eagle until 1972, when it became required for all ranks above First Class.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Eagle Scout (Scouts BSA) division of the BSA. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than two million young men.
Requirements include earning a minimum total of 21 merit badges, including all required badges that were not previously earned, and demonstration of Scout Spirit, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages.