Most cadets start the Duke of Edinburgh Award at the Bronze level once they reach their 14th birthday (or nearly 14 if there are friends of yours who are 14 and about to start the award). This enables you to work through the award with your friends of the same age.
The Bronze level of the DofE is made up of 4 sections that you must complete to receive your award. These are the Volunteering, Skills, Physical and Expedition sections. Each of these sections will take a minimum of 3 months to complete, except the Expedition section which consists of planning, training for and completing a 2 day (1 night) Expedition.
For the Bronze level of the Award you will need to choose which of the Volunteering, Skills and Physical sections you will complete for a further 3 months. The choice is yours and depends on what you are interested in completing as part of your Award and, although you can change your mind later, you should decide which section you want to do for 6 months at the beginning. Knowing how long you will be doing each section for will help you to chose the activities you want to complete and the goals for each section.
It usually takes at least 6 months to complete your Bronze level of the award. Below is a table showing a breakdown of the time-scales for the Bronze Award.
On completion of the Bronze Award you will be presented with a badge to be worn on your uniform and a certificate for your personal records.
On completion of the Bronze Award, the next step is the completion of the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. The activities that you choose at this level should build on and challenge you more than the activities you undertook at the Bronze level. To start the Silver level of the Award you must be 15 years old. If you have completed the Bronze Award however, you may start your Silver Award a month or two before your 15th birthday.
Like the Bronze level of the Award you must complete four sections of the Award. At this level however, you must spend at least 6 months Volunteering and a minimum of 6 months on either Physical or Skills section and 3 months on the other. It is totally your decision as to which section you choose to complete for the longer period. The Silver Award Expedition is also more challenging in that you must plan, train for and complete a 3 day (2 night) expedition in more remote terrain than you are used to.
If you have not completed the Bronze level of the award you will need to spend a further 6 months completing the Volunteering or whichever of the Physical or Skills sections you have spent the most time on. Although you can change your mind later, you should decide which section you want to do for longer at the beginning. Knowing how long you're going to do it for will help you to choose your activity and set your goals for each section.
It will take you at least 6 months to complete your Silver Award (if you've already achieved the Bronze Award), or 12 months if you are direct entrant to the Silver Award. Below is a table that shows a breakdown of the time-scales for the Silver Award.
Again, like the Bronze Award, once you complete the Silver Award you will be given a Silver badge for your uniform and a certificate for your records. The Silver badge will replace the Bronze badge on your uniform (until you complete the Gold Award!).
When you reach your 16th birthday you can start on the Gold level of the DofE Award programme. Unlike Bronze and Silver levels no activities can be counted from before your 16th birthday. Like the Silver Award however, you can choose to develop the same activity as the previous level but you must be able to show a clear development on what you did at the previous level.
At the Gold level of the Award you will spend 12 months completing the Volunteering section and for the Physical and Skills you must spend 12 months on one and six months on the other - it's up to you which section is the longer. As with previous Award levels your Expedition will increase in its challenge and will require you to spend four days and three nights (plus an acclimatisation day) in wild country.
The big difference at the Gold level of the Award is that you must complete a 5th section called the Residential section. This involves staying away from home for five days and four nights doing a shared activity with people you don't know. It's great fun and a real chance to do something different!
If you are a direct entrant on the Gold DofE programme you'll need to do a further six months either Volunteering or whichever one of your Physical or Skills activities you spent the most time on.
For Gold, you'll need to do your programme for at least 12 months if you've achieved your Silver Award, or 18 months if you've started at Gold level without doing your Silver; even if you've done Bronze.
Like all the previous award levels you will be awarded a badge for your uniform and a certificate. The completion of the Gold Award also means you will be given the opportunity to collect your Award from a dignitary at St James' Palace in London.