A Scout is not required to have been a Cub Scout or Webelos Scout in order to join the Troop and achieve advancement in Scouts BSA. Scouts must be under eighteen (18) years old and completed the fifth grade and be at least ten (10) years old; earned the Arrow of Light award and be at least ten (10) years old; or be at least eleven (11) years old.

The Scouts BSA advancement program consists of seven badges, six of which are considered ranks. The program is often considered to be divided into two phases. The first phase of advancement from joining to First Class is designed to teach Scoutcraft skills, leadership, and self-reliance. The Scout rank is awarded when the Scout demonstrates rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals and program.

Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class have progressively harder requirements in the areas of citizenship, personal growth, physical fitness, Scoutcraft, and Scout Spirit. The requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks may be worked on simultaneously; however, these ranks must be earned in sequence.

Eagle Scout requirements include earning a number of Merit Badges and demonstrating Scout Spirit, service, and leadership. This includes an extensive service project the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge that visibly recognizes the accomplishments of the Scout. Additional recognition can be earned through Eagle Palms awarded for completing additional tenure, leadership, and Merit Badge requirements.

The Eagle Scout Rank is the highest rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program. The title of “Eagle Scout” is held for life, thus giving rise to the phrase:

Once an Eagle, always an Eagle

Alternate advancement requirements are available to Scouts with physical or mental disabilities.