Differences between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Boy Scouts are not “webelos 3”. There are significant differences between the two organizations. These differences reflect the differences between the target groups of youth served by the different organizations. They are there for good reasons. Cub scouts is a family program aimed primarily at 7-10 year old boys; it requires the adults to run it in detail, largely because boys of that age cannot be expected to run it. Boy Scouts is a youth-oriented program aimed primarily at 11-18 year old youth. It is run by the scouts, for the scouts, and the adults play a (considerable) role in supporting the program. Our parish scout ministry has another BSA program, Venturers, which is aimed at young adults (14 & 9th grade – 21), where the scouts plan and run activities, but where adult support is fairly minimal, primarily as a resource for activities and as a review of plans.

Whose Troop is it?

It is worth remembering the words of Baden-Powell, “The chief task of the scoutmaster is to help the scouts run their troop”. The central goal of all adult leadership (really adult mentoring and teaching) is to empower the scouts to take up the leadership of their unit. Every adult leader should always ask “does this action of mine enable the scout leadership, or does it interfere with their ability to run their troop?”

Equivalent Positions in Cub and Boy Scouts
Cub Scouts Boy Scouts
Den Leader Patrol Leader
Cubmaster Senior Patrol Leader
Unit Committee (planning functions) Patrol Leaders Council
None Scoutmaster
Unit committee (administrative functions) Unit Committee

Notice that most cub scout positions are filled by youth in the boy scouts. This reflects the central difference between the two organizations. The patrol leaders are elected by their patrols, and the senior patrol leader by the troop at large. Because it is run by the scouts, boy scout meetings and activities tend to be more chaotic than cub meetings and activities. This is healthy. The scouts need to have opportunities to make mistakes, one role of the adult mentoring is to prevent these mistakes from becoming catastrophes. Unlike cub scouts, rank advancement in the first ranks (tenderfoot through first class) is examined by senior scouts (technically the scoutmaster can now restrict who can examine them, but it does not bode well if a scout who is most of the way to eagle is not competent to teach basic knots to a tenderfoot scout or the oath and law to a scout scout), and checked by the scoutmaster and board of review. Ranks like star, life scout, and eagle require merit badges which are taught and examined by adults who are registered merit badge counselors. They still have scoutmaster conferences and boards of review.

But you have put none for the equivalence between Scoutmaster and Cub Scouts, What gives?

Baden-Powell was thinking of the turn of the last century English word “schoolmaster” when he coined the word “scoutmaster”. A schoolmaster is a mentor, friend and teacher to his students. BSA is one of the few scouting organizations that still uses the term scoutmaster. The way to think of scoutmaster is as “chief adult guide” and the assistant scoutmasters as “adult guides”. Unfortunately these don’t make as nifty patches as scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster.

Written by Rob in: scouting |


  • c.w

    I went through the complete article. This is really great. Good comparison between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. I got valuable details about this two types. Great work! When I was 19,I was a Scoutmaster. I think every one need to join there bcoz it helps to keep us physically and mentally strong and later we found the implements of this.
    Thanks for sharing

    Comment | March 24, 2010
  • Joseph

    i loved the article. it really puts contrast between boy scouts and cub scouts. you may have missed some things like assist patrol leader, quartermaster, grub master, etc. those are called jobs. the boy scout jobs are to make sure the scouts know that boy scouts isn’t all just fun and games, and that you have to do something productive for you troop once in a while. when i was in boy scouts i was a assistant patrol leader, and so when the patrol leader wasn’t there at a camp out, or a troop meeting i would be in charge of my patrol

    Comment | December 30, 2010
  • very informative article.

    Military and handmade embroidered Badges Suppliers

    Comment | May 25, 2011
  • Mikemenn

    This was a very interesting article. Did you come up with these analogies by yourself, or do you have a source for this information.


    Comment | September 19, 2011
  • Rob

    Since this sort of falls into the cracks between boy scouts and cub scouts I don’t know of a single source that covers it. The structure and function of boy scout troops comes more or less directly from the scoutmaster’s handbook, while the cub scouting things comes from den leader and webelos leader training. The respective “fast start” training will also say similar things.

    Comment | September 27, 2011
  • Great, that’s an awesome read.

    Comment | April 27, 2012

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