Can Scout Leaders Earn Awards?

Yes, Scouter Leaders or “Scouters” can earn awards. Most adult awards and recognitions have certificates, pins or medals, and a patch usually with a square knot embroidered on it in different colors.  Adult leaders wear these square knot patches on their uniform over the left pocket.  The order that they are worn is up to the individual.  To learn more see the Guide to Awards and Insignia.

Why Square Knots?

The square knot is used as the basis for at least 30 of the BSA’s recognition awards which carry an emblem for uniform wear. Remember that the actual award is NOT the square knot itself, but rather in the Cub Scout leader’s case, a medallion suspended from a colorful ribbon which is worn around the neck of the Cub Scouter. 

The actual reason why the square knot was chosen is rooted in the history of the BSA. The first Chief Scout Executive, James West, decided to end the long tradition of allowing BSA Scoutmasters and Commissioners to wear military medal ribbons and other military-looking ribbons to represent Scouting awards. It is rumored that he chose the square knot as the emblem to represent the Eagle, Scouters’ Key and Scouters’ Training Award, and the Silver Beaver (the first awards for Scouters to wear) because the square knot would remind Scouters to continue to be of service to others. The square knot, of course, is the knot associated with first aid. So, with different combinations of rope colors, and later with different background colors, the square knot became Scouting’s “informal ribbons” representing national, regional, local Council, and eventually unit awards.

There isn’t any written confirmation of the above, but this description and reasoning has been published in previous editions of Scouting as well as on several websites.


Retired Awards

Did you see someone with a square knot or other award and not sure what it is and its not in the list below?     It’s probably a retired award that can no longer be earned but can be worn on the field uniform.    Follow the link to retired awards to see a list of those and the corresponding knot.

Achievement Awards

Arrow of Light – Worn by adults who earned the Arrow of Light as a youth member.

Eagle Scout – Worn by adults who earned the rank of Eagle Scout as a youth member.

National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) Life Time Member  – Worn by adults who earned the rank of Eagle Scout as a youth member and have become a life time member of the NESA. Worn in place of the standard Eagle Scout Knot

Distinguished Eagle Scout

Distinguished Eagle Scout Award  –  Worn by those Eagle Scouts honored by the BSA with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, a special gold Eagle suspended from a red, white and blue neck ribbon

Venturing Summit Award – Worn by Adults who have earned the Venturing Summit Award

Quartermaster – Sea Scout Award – Worn by Adults and Youth who have earned the Quartermaster Award as a youth.

Bravery Awards

Medal of Merit – Awarded by the National Council for heroism with little or no risk to life.

Heroism Award – Awarded by the National Council for heroism with less risk to life.

Honor Medal – Awarded by the National Council to those who risk their lives to save another.

Leadership & Training Awards

Den Leader’s Training Award – One year of tenure and other requirements.

Scouter’s Training Award – Basic Training and other requirements. Various requirements, depending on the program.

Scouter’s Key – Various requirements, depending on the program.  – Commissioners, Scoutmasters, Venturing Advisors, and others.


Unit Leader’s Award of Merit – Earned by Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Varsity Team Coaches, and Venturing Crew Advisors meeting the requirements on form 512-003. This award replaces the Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, and Venturing Advisor’s Awards of Merit, which have been discontinued.


Sea Badge – Earned by completing Sea Badge Leader Training


Professional Scouter Training Award – worn by professional Scouters who have earned the award.


Doctor of Commissioner’s Science – completion of a program leading to the award of the Doctorate of Commissioner Science from a College of Commissioner Science.


Distinguished Commissioner Service Award – Five years tenure and other requirements.


Commissioner Award of Excellence in Unit Service – Two years tenure and other requirements covering unit service and improved retention of members.


Philmont Training Center Master’s Knot – attendance at Philmont Training Center (PTC) as a participant at least twice, and other requirements


Alumni Award Knot – Activities by BSA alumni that promote Scouting.

Honor Awards for Outstanding Service


George Meany Award – Presented to labor union members who have been unusually effective in giving leadership to youth


Scouting Service Award – recognizes adult volunteers who have earned one of five different awards, each celebrating a leader’s dedication to a special segment of Scouting.

The knot recognizes Scouters who have earned one of these five awards:

  • Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award*
  • ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award*
  • Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award*
  • American Indian Scouting Association Grey Wolf Award
  • Special Needs Scouting Service Award

Community Organization Awards – Presented by various chartered partner organizations for service to Scouting. – requirements vary by organization


Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award – The National Order of the Arrow committee presents the Distinguished Service Award to those Arrowmen who have rendered outstanding service to the Order on a sectional, area, regional, or national basis


BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award Program – Recognizes Scouts, Explorers and Scouters for conservation and ecology efforts in their communities


William H. Spurgeon III Award – Presented to Scouters rendering distinguished service to Exploring


District Award of Merit – Presented to Scouters at the District level for unusual dedication and service


Venturing Leadership Award – Presented to Venturers who have made exceptional contributions to Venturing and who exemplify the Venturing Code


Silver Beaver – Presented to Scouters at the Council level for unusual dedication and service


Silver Antelope – Presented to Scouters at the Regional level for unusual dedication and service


Silver Buffalo – Presented to Scouters and non-Scouters at the National level for unusual dedication and service


Silver World – Presented to Scouters who have supported Scouting on a worldwide basis


International Scouter – Recognizes Scouters for their contributions to world Scouting

Religious Awards


Youth Religious Emblem – Worn by youth and adult members who received a religious emblem as a youth member


Adult Religious Award – Worn by adults who received religious awards as an adult

Support of Scouting


James West Fellowship Award – Worn by those honored for their personal donation of a minimum of $1000 to a local Council Endowment Fund, or honored by others with such a donation


William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award – Worn by those honored for starting a new unit


Veteran Scouter Recognition – After five years of registered service in the Boy Scouts of America, an adult may, upon application, receive the designation of “Veteran.” There are additional veteran awards for every five years


Service Stars – Just as you recognize Scouts with service stars, adult leaders are also eligible to receive these pins. After one year of service an adult may be presented with a one-year service star. An adult who has been involved in Scouting as a youth or has been involved for more than five years is also eligible for the Veteran Award


Interpreter Strip – Scouting is a worldwide organization and  encourages youth and adults to share their culture and heritage with others. The interpreter strip informs others that you can communicate in a foreign language, American sign language, or Morse code. Youth and adults may wear this strip if they show their knowledge of a foreign language or the sign language for the hearing impaired by:

• Carrying on a five-minute conversation in this language

• Translating a two-minute speech or address

• Writing a letter in the language (does not apply for sign language)

• Translating 200 words from the written word