Ask the Expert: Wood Badge course numbering, decoded

expertlogo1W2-590-14-8, C6-160-14-2, S4-83-14-2, N4-527-14.

Are those nuclear launch codes? A paranoid person’s computer password? Some sort of weird locker combination?

Nope. Those four sets of characters describe the numbers of actual Wood Badge courses being offered in 2014.

And in reality, the code — found on every modern Wood Badge course — isn’t that difficult to crack.

The letter represents your Scouting region — Western, Central, Southern or Northeast. The number is your area. Then comes your council number (which you can find here), followed by the two-digit year. (Notice that all four examples above have “14” in common because they’re all held in 2014.)

The final number is added only if a council is offering multiple Wood Badge courses in a single calendar year. If so, they’re numbered chronologically. The first course in 2014 would get a 1 on the end, the second a 2 and so on.

Example time. Let’s take the Wood Badge course I staffed last summer: course No. S2-571-13-3.

That’s: S for Southern Region, 2 for Area 2, 571 for Circle Ten Council’s number, 13 for the year 2013 and 3 because the course was the third Circle Ten course of the calendar year.

Are you more of a visual person? Well here’s a handy chart for you:


But recently Scouter C. J. Johnson noticed an extra, unexplained letter in a course number used by a council.

Here’s his question:

Hopefully you can clarify something for me. For the Wood Badge course numbering convention, I understand that course numbers are determined by: Region, Area, Council, Year, and sequential number of the course during the year. So…hypothetically, the third course this year in the Cascade Pacific Council would be W1-492-14-3.

My question is, in a number of courses I’ve seen, there is an “E” in the course number. Such as: WE1-492-14-3. What does the “E” mean? I’ve heard that it stands for “a split, weekend course” whereas the lack of the “E” designates a six-day, week long course. However, I’ve seen split courses without the “E” as well.

To “E”, or not to “E”…that is the question.

Nice question. For the answer I went to Mark Griffin, director of learning delivery for Scouting University here at BSA HQ.

While there have been many Wood Badge course numbering variations over the years, back in the days when there were more than four regions and some of their names started with the same letter, two letters were used to indicate the region in the numbering system for courses.

Even when that conflict was no longer an issue, the regions, which assigned the numbers in those days, kept a two-letter designation.

When the Southeast Region, “SE,” and the South Central Region, “SC,” became the Southern Region, “SR” was used.

East Central, “EC,” and North Central, “NC,” became the Central Region and used “CR.”

Western kept “WE,” and Northeast kept “NE.”

After the region offices closed, the official course numbers have been assigned by the national council, and the current system is to use just the first letter of the region name, followed by the area number, the council number, and the last two digits of the year. If a council has more than one course in a given year an additional 1, 2, 3, etc. is added at the end.

There is no difference in the numbering for weeklong and weekend courses.

Thanks, Mark.

So, C.J., what it looks like you were seeing was someone still using the older-style course numbering convention. “WE” was at one time used for Western region courses, but the current style is to just use the W. The “E” is unnecessary.

And so, as Mark points out, there’s no way to differentiate a weeklong course from a weekend course just by looking at a course number.

Hope that helps!

More Ask the Expert posts

Find more Ask the Expert posts at this link, and ask your Scouting-related queries via email. I can’t answer every email, but I do read them all.

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Wood Badge Wednesdays: Puerto Rico edition

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24 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Wood Badge course numbering, decoded

  1. Thanks for the explanation for the current numbering, for an antelope from SR-1009…I took it in ’09

  2. I know a scouter that attended a course that used this number: C-16-07. How is that course number decoded?

    • Prior to 2010, the Wood Badge courses couldn’t be traced back to any particular council. The course you cite was held in the Central Region, it was the 16th course approved to be held in 2007. I was a proud Fox in C-04-03, and I’ve been a staffer on C-24-06 C-15-08 and C-31-09, all held in the Miami Valley Council. Numbering got changed, and my son (a Bobwhite) and daughter (an Owl) both participated in C6-444-11. Both have earned their beads and Dad couldn’t be prouder.

  3. So when did they change to this current standard of Wood Badge course numbering?
    When I took WB it’s 10yrs now, you would never known the second number was council.

    • As the article above indicates, the change was in mid-2011, when the four distinct regional offices closed and the responsibility for assigning numbers moved to the national office in Texas.

  4. “Course, now that’s only the way us usa’s do it. No telling how they do it “over there”. Or why we should need to know. And this is the way we will ID the usa courses (so we can tell them apart why?) until someone else comes along and sez “I think I’ll do it THIS way….” I know I took Jeep’s course. All I need to know.
    Are /were some courses better than others? It’s too late now to take the “good” course (by reputation? Whose, what reputation? ) I suppose it helps to know where someone took WB by glancing at the ID badge (if it’s there) hanging on the shirt button, one more thing to start the conversation.

  5. I took the old course in 1990, in what was the North Central Region in what was then the St. Louis Area Council, so the course was numbered NC-538 (aka 312-41, the Council code and 41st course) as a Bobwhite. I retook Wood Badge in 2012 in the Greater St. Louis Council (2 other councils were merged with us in the mid-1990’s) and we are in Area 3 of the Central Region, thus, C3-312-12-1 (80th course in the Council). I am now a Buffalo.:) The interim numbering that Brian mentioned above now makes sense (e.g. C-nn-07).

  6. My course number is SR953.
    I took it in 2009 and Gulf Ridge Council is 086, which is in the Southern Regio. So, what does “53” mean?

    • SR-953 means the 953rd course offered by the Southern Region. SR (and SE before it) numbered courses sequentially without any indication of areas or councils.

  7. Council numbers and years are a very new part of the course numbering system, at least in some regions. Through 2011, in the Northeast Region, the pattern was “NE-“, then the area number as a Roman numeral, and then the sequential number of the course within the area. So my father, who took a course shortly after the NE Region added Area 6, was in NE-VI-4. Not all councils in the area ran Wood Badge every year, so the final number increased a bit every year.

    In contrast, Southeast Region courses tended to omit the Area number and go sequentially for courses within the region, e.g., SE-286.

    The change took place in mid-2011. Baltimore Area Council had two courses that year: NE-VI-80 in the spring and N6-220-11-1 in the fall.

    • Good question! It appears that one council is designated as the host and that council’s number is used. So the 2012 and 2013 GNYC/WPC courses were at Camp Alpine and were N7-640-12 and N2-640-13*(GNYC is #640). The 2014 course is GNYC, WPC, and Greenwich Council, is hosted at Durland Scout Reservation and is N2-388-14 (WPC is #388).

      (*Note that the NE Region was re-organized between 2011 and 2012 and in the process these councils moved from Area 7 to Area 2.)

      • That’s correct, if two or more councils combine to hold a course, the host council’s number is used.

  8. Fun, fun – – I am a good old Beaver from New England, original course number of NE-1-120 so to convert that so everyone can understand it – NE1-218-86?? …”I’m growind old and feeble”……

  9. John, you are almost 100% correct; Under the previous format, your course’s designation is: NE – Northeast Region; IV – Area Four; 58 – fifty-eighth course in the sequence; 07 – the seventh person of the course as listed by Patrol, last name alphabetically, e.g. you are in the Beaver Patrol, seventh person by last name alpha sort. This number would only be mentioned for record keeping purposes.

    It is not the 7th course graduate:

    This format does not include the Year the practical session was completed NOR the sponsoring Council by number;

    e.g. I completed NE-I-148 – Northeast Region, Area One, Course #148 in sequence;

    Does not indicate the Course was held at Camp Onway, Raymond NH, then North Essex BSA #720(Lawrence MA), was a five-council cluster course administered by Minuteman Council #240 (Stoneham MA) in the September 1990.

    This was also shortly after Regions were consolidated from six down to four in the 1980’s. Another story in itself for later…

    Lastly, each of the four Regions administer the approval of a Wood Badge course as well as the Training of the Course Director and “back-up” Course Director each year. Hence, the Regional Offices at the time maintained an accurate list of distributing Course Numbers within the Region and respective Area.

    Hence, a “NE-I” would essential be a WB Course held within the New England, six state area.

    I hope this data assists the conversation.

  10. Thank you for the information. I haven’t been to Wood badge yet, hopefully this summer. Would you write an article on how to get the most out of Wood badge for those of us who have not yet attended? It would be very helpful. Thanks.

  11. Now the current Seabadge numbering is a completely different system. All Seabadge courses are now done under the auspices of national. My course was SB-13-PA-12 Or explained (Seabadge Course 13, Pennsylvania 2012.) If you ever get an email from me, you’ll see I have a small delta burgee immediately after my course number because I was the crew leader of the Delta Crew. (Fundamentally the same logic as a patrol .)

  12. Granted that when I first took Wood Badge was a frighteningly long time ago and I’ve staffed a few times since then but, involving 3 regions and 6 councils, the courses I have been connected with have used seven different numbering systems. Probably the one of which I am most proud is that I had the honor of directing course “Western 1” the first Wood Badge Course authorized when Western Region was created. The course that I took was R12-25.

  13. Here’s one for the group; my course was NE-IV-121-X – this was one of the eXperimental courses which helped develop/shape the ‘new’ Wood Badge course. After having served on staff with a few courses since then, we found out the staff members on the experimental courses were being driven crazy by constant, daily course changes. I’m sure that wasn’t an easy task; none of us particpants were even remotely aware of all those changes the staff endured.

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