What's the Ages for Scouts?
The Boy Scouts of America has a family of programs designed for young men in elementary, middle grades, high school and junior college. Here's a summary of their programs, age breakouts, and an link to the official BSA's website. For some reason, the BSA has decided not to provide this information right out front on their home page.
Males may become Cub Scouts when they are in the first, second, third, forth or fifth school grades. Cub Scouting is a school grade-level program as opposed to an age-level program. Tiger Cub Scouts are first graders; Wolf Cub Scouts are second graders; Bear Cub Scouts are third graders; and WEBELOS (pronounced "We-buh-los" or "Web-los"; it is short for "WE'll BE Loyal Scouts!") are fourth and fifth graders. Females may not become Cub Scouts presently.
Males may become Boy Scouts when they have completed the school fifth grade and are at least 10 years old; or when they are 11 years old regardless of school grade. Former Cub Scouts may become a Boy Scout after they have earned the Arrow of Light Award (Cub Scouting's highest rank; the FIRST requirement to earn the Arrow of Light is to "be active in your Webelos Den for at least 6 months since completing the 4th grade OR since turning 10") and are at least 10.5 (ten and a half) years old. Boy Scouting ends on the occasion of the male's 18th birthday. Females may not become Boy Scouts presently.
Males may become Varsity Scouts when they become 14 years of age or have graduated from the eighth grade. Varsity Scouting is an off-shoot of the traditional Boy Scouting program, which offers a more challenging sports and outdoor-interest program geared to older youth. Males may remain in Varsity Scouting until the occasion of their 18th birthday. Females may not register as Varsity Scouts presently. There is word that the BSA will soon discontinue the Varsity Scouting program and those members will either become members of Venturing Crews (see paragraph below) or remain as Boy Scouts (see paragraph above).
Females and males may become members of any number of Venturing units. Venturing is the BSA's young-adult program which center around interests in arts and hobbies, outdoors, religious and community life, or sports. Venturers are 14-21, high school or junior college-aged young men and women.
Like Venturing, Sea Scouting is available to females and males between the ages of 14 (having completed the eighth grade) and 21 but specializes in water-related programs.
For those old enough and wondered where does the Exploring program fits in here since it was not mentioned until now, I have some bad news for you: Exploring has been gone now (as of November 2009) for ten years and a half. A version of Exploring is now offered through the Learning for Life Corporation as a separate program for young men and women of Venturing age. The biggest difference is that Exploring is NOT a part of the Boy Scouts of America's "traditional programs family" - no insurance coverage, no access to BSA camps, and Learning for Life/Exploring members cannot wear the BSA uniforms, insignia or earn Eagle (unless they are also BSA members). Some BSA local Councils may continue to manage Learning for Life/Exploring units out of tradition or because of a support tie-in or agreement but most have separate staffs and manage Exploring separately from Venturing, Sea Scouting and the Cub/Boy/Varsity Scouting programs. Learning for Life/Exploring is available to females and males between the ages of 14 (having completed the eighth grade) and 21. There is more information here which further explains "what happened to Exploring?"
To find out more about the programs of the Boy Scouts of America, please visit their website, where you can read more information about how important Scouting is in the development of young men and older young men and women and how to find a local Scouting unit. They also have information on how you as a member of your community can support the Scouting programs by becoming a volunteer or through your contributions to the local BSA Council where you live or work.
Scouter John Ross asked me -- and I agreed -- to add some specific information about a small but important difference. He wrote "...you stated that the Cub Scout program is “a school grade-level program as opposed to an age-level program”…. While I agree that this is correct for a large portion of Cub Units, it is not for LDS Packs. Packs chartered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) use age as the method of advancement not school grade level (we also don’t run Tigers – and still have a 1 year Webelos program)."
Thanks, John...I do appreciate the information and I'm hopeful that lots of parents will appreciate this specific information also.
Again, I apologize if you've been looking for information and could not find it from the BSA's home page. I don't know why they have made it so difficult for you and yours to get basic information about their programs. I'm happy to provide this information and to answer your questions about Scouting. It's something I've been doing online for more than 17 years. To reach me, click on the link above or at the bottom of the page. But check out the the BSA's website. It's a great place to get information about this nation's premiere youth-serving program.