Question: What percentage of Scouts earn all of the merit badges?
Answer: Based on information from Boy Scouts of America, there are currently over 1,000,000 Scouts in the various programs in Boy Scouts of America that are eligible to earn the rank of Eagle Scout and earn merit badges. In 2011 just over 50,000 Scouts were awarded the rank of Eagle Scout (roughly 5% of the total). We estimate, based on our research, that on average less than 18 scouts per year earn all of the merit badges (roughly 0.0018% of the total or roughly 0.036% of all Eagle Scouts).                    —Troy Pugh

A few years ago I was attending a National School Board meeting, where the secretary of education suggested that we could do away with public high schools, if every teen read and worked on all of BSA’s merit badges. Wow! that is quite a statement.

The idea of every teen reading and doing all the Merit Badges makes one stop and think.  More and more home schoolers in my state are making the Merit Badge Program and STEM Scouts a part of their older students’ curriculum.

Similarly, I know of a young man who did not speak English when he came to the USA, but immediately fell in love with Scouting (well, at least its uniform). He was an older teen, but wanted to earn his Eagle—along the way he learned and perfected his English using the merit badge pamphlets!

But 136 merit badges before age 18 …
that is just staggering compared to my paltry effort of 37.

One person I know makes knowing dedicated Scouts who earn them all a passionate hobby, Troy Pugh.

Troy Pugh
Troy Pugh has collected names of Scouts who did it all at his Achiever’s Registry

He has spent years cataloguing those who did it all. Currently his records show 271 with 13 more pending additional research. Troy is one of them along with his brothers and sons.

His records show the first Scout to earn all the merit badges finished in 1922; however, there were only 69 badges then. As the decades rolled on, more badges were added, making the challenge harder.

With 18 Scouts a year completing this super plus challenge, as Troy explains, there are some unique problems. First, where to put all those Silver Palms. (To learn about how to place palms read Bryan on Scouting. Here’s how Eagle Palms work”).

A second problem presents itself as an Eagle becomes an adult Scouter. Silver Palms on Knot“While four Silver Palms represents the most palm pins that can possibly be pinned onto an Eagle square knot, the most reasonable maximum number of pins to be pinned onto the Eagle square knot is two. Otherwise, the square knot is covered by the pins.” Troy said. He continues:

“Scouts who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout are encouraged to continue their activity in the program, continuing to show leadership and learn. Eagle Palms are designed to provide Scouts recognition for their continued leadership, activity, and the achievement of additional merit badges above those required to reach the rank of Eagle. For every three months of service and leadership in their troops and an additional five merit badges above the rank of Eagle they are awarded an additional Eagle Palm.”

According to BSA’s Guide to Awards and Insignia: “Eagle Palm; Boy Scout and Scouter, worn only on the Eagle Award ribbon or Eagle square knot. You may wear only the proper combination of Palms for the number of merit badges you earn beyond Eagle.”

Eagle Ribbon with 3 silver palms representing a total of 45 more merit badges earned after the 21 for Eagle
Eagle Ribbon with 3 silver palms representing a total of 45 more merit badges earned after the 21 for Eagle

Troy says: “While Scouts are youth in the program they wear their Palm pins on the ribbon of their Eagle Scout medal. When Scouts become adult scouters they replace their Eagle Scout patch and medal ribbon with the Eagle Scout Square Knot; they subsequently move their Palms from their Eagle medal ribbon to their knot. In this fashion, BSA allows for the continued recognition as an adult Scout for palms earned.

Knot with palms
Silver + bronze palms can be awarded after one year of continued leadership and a total of 41 total merit badges (21 required + 20 additional) earned

“Unfortunately, the Eagle square knot’s size is insufficient for a Scouter to wear more than four palm pins, effectively causing Scouts who have earned more than four silver palms to remove this recognition from their uniforms when they become Scouters. (It could be argued that even the wear of more than two palm pins crowd and cover the Eagle square knot inappropriately.)

“The achievement of Silver Palms is a significant accomplishment. This requires 15 additional merit badges above Eagle Scout and nine additional months of service and leadership in the troop for each Silver Palm earned. Many Scouts even exceed these levels of dedication earning several Silver Palms, but they lose the recognition for it when they become adults as there is no space logistically on their uniforms for multiple palm pins, which symbolizes this achievement.”

Troy's proposed Palm Knot
Troy’s proposed Palm Knot

Troy has petitioned the National Council for a special square knot for the achievement of multiple Silver Palms. He says: “This knot would be a device symbolizing the multiple Silver Palms earned.” There are two variations explored in his proposal. If you are interested in learning more you can visit his website at: or contact him at: Troy J Pugh, 314 Ivy St SE, Ephrata, WA 98823 (cell) 509.398.5074.


Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. These days he is a Scouting Ambassador and serves on the Council Membership and Marketing Committee. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Commissioner.

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