Knots of Recognition

Since 1946, the Boy Scouts of America has used Square Knot emblems on the uniform to represent Scouting awards of significant achievement. Think about the Eagle Scout Medal. That is the actual award. The knot just represents it on the Uniform. All of these knots represent an actual medal, plaque, or certificate and represent a lot of volunteer time or significant service.

Prior to 1946, the BSA used military bar ribbons similar to what you see on military, fire, and police uniforms. (Source)

Knots are a tricky subject. Some folks view them as a visible Scouting history and they are super proud of their accomplishments, and some are humble and only wear their most important knots. It’s up to you! But that’s your choice to wear a bunch of them or not.  Official rules from the Guide to Insignia and Awards say to wear 9 or less knots in rows of 3. Some folks will wear way more than 9. It’s up to you. Fun Fact: Sea Scout Leaders can only wear 6 knots on the Sea Scout Uniform. 

Scouting Square Knots

How to Wear Uniform Knots – Rows of 3.

This page was put together not to show all of the requirements, but to show more about the knots and the correct “way” to wear the knot.


If you want detailed descriptions, go here and sit in a comfy chair to enjoy all the details…

If you want to learn more, check out this post from the Scouting Magazine blog and this post too! That last post I used for a lot of the award descriptions.

And if you look at patch history of knots, don’t be surprised if you see them in all different colors like blue, green, white and black for Exploring and Sea Scout uniforms.


Religious Award Emblems

Youth Religious Award
Represents a youth’s earning the religious emblem pertaining to the denomination of his or her choice. Learn more here. 

Adult Religious Award
Represents an adult’s earning the religious emblem pertaining to the denomination of his or her choice.

Youth Award Emblems

Arrow of Light
Represents an adult who earned the Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout.

Eagle Scout
Represents earning the highest rank in Scouting as a youth. You wear the oval Eagle badge until you turn 18. After that, you’ll switch to the knot.

Eagle Scout NESA (National Eagle Scout Association Life Member)
Same as the knot above but it has a cool silver mylar thread border. Recognizes life members of the National Eagle Scout Association for their commitment to support Eagle Scouts. Learn more here.

Venturing Summit Award / formerly the Venturing Silver Award
Venturing’s highest honor (replacing the Venturing Silver Award). To achieve it, a young person must serve the crew as a leader — both formally and informally — and mentor others. In addition, the Venturer must strengthen his or her community by designing and leading a service project to benefit others.

Sea Scout Quartermaster Award
It is the adult knot for an individual who has earned the highest award in Sea Scouts. Learn more about Sea Scouting Awards here.

Exploring Awards Knot (Discontinued)
Included since we have leaders still wearing this one.
This Knot represents a number of awards including the Exploring Silver Award Award (from the 60’s), Explorer Achievement Award, and Explorer G.O.L.D. Award, and the Young American Award. You will see this on some current leaders who were members of Exploring prior to when Venturing replaced Exploring in 1998. This was the Exploring Eagle Scout Equivalent Award.

William T. Hornaday Bronze and Silver Medal (youth)
Gold Medal (adult)
Hornaday Awards are incredibly rare and there are distinguished service in natural resources conservation. The adult one takes decades to earn. The Youth ones require more projects than an Eagle Scout award. More history here.

Adult Leader Training Awards

Den Leader Training Award
Recognizes den leaders who have completed training, tenure and performance requirements.

Scouter’s Training Award
Encourages training, tenure in a position, participation and performance of adult leaders. Earned by roundtable commissioner staff, Cub Scout leaders, Webelos leaders, Boy Scout leaders, Venturing leaders, Sea Scout leaders, commissioners and district committee members.

Scouter’s Key Award
Encourages training, performance and tenure in Cubmasters, Scoutmasters, Venturing crew Advisors, district and assistant district commissioners, and district committee members.

Unit Leader Award of Merit
Encourages units to be strong and viable by attaining certain benchmarks characteristic of strong units; seven requirements must be met with a nomination by the top youth leader if for a troop, crew, or ship; nomination is certified by the unit commissioner.

Philmont Training Center Master’s Knot
Promote educational opportunities by encouraging Scouters to return to Philmont Training Center over a number of years, growing through advanced-level training, and then taking knowledge back to units, districts, councils, council clusters, and national and international venues.

Professional Training Award
This knot represents a certificate that can only be earned by Professional Scouters. You won’t see it around all that often unless you hang out with the Professonal Staff for District and Council service. This is not an easy award. 

Commissioner Service Awards

Commissioner Award of Excellence in Unit Service
Awarded to a commissioner who provides exemplary unit service, focusing on unit performance as measured in Journey to Excellence and through the use of the current BSA Unit Service Plan and Commissioner Tools.

Distinguished Commissioner Service Award
Five years tenure and other requirements. They receive a certificate and a super cool bolo tie! 

Doctorate of Commissioner Science Award
Recognizes completion of a standardized program leading to the completion of a thesis or project and the award of the Doctorate of Commissioner Service from a College of Commissioner Science.

Support of Scouting Awards

William D. Boyce New-Unit Organizer Award
Presented to Scouting alumni who promote continued engagement with the Boy Scouts of America. William D. Boyce is one of the responsible people for bringing Scouting to the United States.

James E. 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. It can be a gift! James E. West was the first Chief Scout Executive (professional) of the BSA for over 30 years.  There are multiple levels of the award: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Diamond. Learn more here.

Presented to those who make a gift to a local council in addition to — and not replacing or diminishing — the donor’s annual Friends of Scouting support.

Recognition Awards

Community Organization Award
After representatives of several national chartered organizations inquired about the development of a recognition that could be given to registered adult leaders in units chartered to community organizations, similar to the adult religious awards presented by various denominations and faith groups, the BSA National Court of Honor approved the concept of a Community Organization Award square knot. This square knot is available to be worn by uniformed Scouters who have been recognized for their service to Scouting youth in the community.  Learn more here.

International Scouter’s Award
Recognizes adult volunteers who promote international Scouting on all levels and who, in turn, help broaden the perspectives of Scouting. 

Alumni Award
Presented to Scouting alumni who promote continued engagement with the Boy Scouts of America.

Scouting Service Award
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 or the Special Needs Scouting Service Award.

Note: The Asian American Spirit of Scouting Service Award, ¡Scouting…Vale la Pena! Service Award and Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award have their own separate square knots that are being phased out. Once supplies of those knots run out, the new Scouting Service Award knot will be used to recognize recipients of those awards.

Venturing Leadership Award / Sea Scout Leadership Award
Recognize Venturers and Venturing Advisors who have made exceptional contributions to Venturing and who exemplify the Scout Oath and Law. Presented by councils, areas, regions and the BSA National Council. Learn more here.

District Award of Merit
Available to registered Scouters who render service of an outstanding nature at the district level. Learn more here.

Silver Beaver Award
This is the top volunteer level award at the council level for unusual dedication and service to scouting.

Silver Antelope Award
Recognizes registered Scouters of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service within a region.

Silver Buffalo Award
Recognizes registered Scouters and others of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service at the national level. (See a list of recipients here.)

Order of the Arrow Distinguished Service Award
Recognizes Arrowmen who have rendered outstanding service to the Order on a sectional, regional or national level.

Bravery and Meritorious Awards

Medal of Merit
Awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has performed an act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others.

Heroism Award
This is a lifesaving award presented to a registered youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated heroism in saving or attempting to save a life at minimum risk to self.

Honor Medal
Awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save life at considerable risk to self.