Ask the Expert: Can Scouts earn service hours outside of the troop setting?

expertlogo1Are all service hours created equal?

If a Scout, say, builds a house with his church youth group or delivers meals with his school’s student council, can those hours count toward Boy Scout rank advancement?

That’s what a Scouter named Andrea wondered this week:


Our troop only allows service hours to accrue if it is a troop-sponsored service event. I think that this is against Scouting principles but understand the difficulty in calculating hours if the boys are collecting hours through school, church, etc. What is the BSA policy for this? Can the boys earn service hours outside the troop and how do we get those to “count” if they are allowed to be accrued by the Scout?



Now, nobody will question the value of service to others — even those not conducted with a Scout unit. But what Andrea’s wondering is whether her Scoutmaster is correct in restricting which hours may be applied to rank advancement within Scouting.

The short answer: The Scoutmaster is correct. If he or she wants the service projects to be part of troop activities, that’s fine.

Again we turn to the BSA’s Advancement Team for the full explanation.

Service requirements in Boy Scouts

First, a reminder about where and when Boy Scouts must accumulate service hours. Here’s the official language:

  • Second Class Requirement #5: Participate in an approved (minimum of one hour) service project(s).
  • Star Scout Requirement #4: While a First Class Scout, take part in service projects totaling at least six hours of work. These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster.
  • Life Scout Requirement #4: While a Star Scout, take part in service projects totaling at least six hours of work. These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster.

Service hours explained

The Advancement Team says:

As you can see, all service projects must be approved by the unit leader (Scoutmaster in this case).

However, service hours are not restricted to just unit-sponsored events or projects. On page 84 of the Boy Scout Handbook, it states in part: “A service project is a special Good Turn that puts Scout spirit into action. Projects can take many forms. You might take part in a community cleanup; repair a place of worship, a museum, or the home of an elderly person; improve a wildlife habitat; volunteer at a hospital or with a public safety group; organize a recycling effort; or conduct a clothing pickup or food drive.”

Scouts may also assist on Eagle Scout projects being conducted by the Eagle Scout candidate.

Again, approval must be obtained from the unit leader; this is how service hours are counted and accounted for.

Basically, a Scout could accumulate service hours outside of Scouting, but only if his Scoutmaster approves.

This is a case of letting each Scoutmaster set his or her own policy.

Thanks for the question, Andrea!

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