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How To Become a Firefighter in Ohio (OH)

What follows i a step by step guide on how to become a firefighter in Ohio (OH). We cover minimum requirements, state regulations, necessary certificates, a rundown of the application and hiring process, the average salary of a professional fireman in Ohio, and more.

How To Locate Fire Departments in Ohio

The first step to becoming an Ohio firefighter is to decide on the fire departments you’d like to work for. The state of Ohio gives local communities a free hand in deciding what the hiring procedure should look like, so it’s important to contact the fire departments of your choice for accurate information. Here is a list of fire departments in Ohio to get you started.

Minimum Ohio Requirements For Becoming a Firefighter

Below are the minimum requirements you’ll have to meet to apply for a firefighter’s position in Ohio. Certain fire departments may have some additional requirements as well, so make sure to ask about that.

  • Must be 18 years or older (sometimes being 17.5 years old is enough)
  • Must be a United States’ citizen
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Must have a high school diploma or an equivalent
  • Must have never been convicted of a felony (misdemeanors are handled on a case-by-case basis)
  • Must be a person of impeccable character

Extra points are often given to honorably-discharged army veterans, who have served a minimum of 180 days in the army. While this is in no way a requirement, it does increase your chances of being hired.

Is a Fire Degree Required To Become a Firefighter in Ohio?

No, a fire degree is not required. However, as with most other states, Ohio law makes it a requirement that anyone wishing to work as a professional firefighter should successfully complete the Firefighter II training course. The vast majority of fire departments will not require you to complete this training prior to applying for the job, though you will need to complete it before the end of your probationary period (assuming you are hired).

With that said, the number of applicants with some fire education / a fire degree is on the rise, so it’s a good idea to take some classes even before you submit your application at the fire department – if not to increase your chances of being hired, then at least for your own sake and to learn more about your future profession and what you are getting yourself into. Below is a list of some renowned fire academies in Ohio for your convenience:

Fire training is also available at many community colleges. Here is a list of community colleges in Ohio – give them a call and find out if they have any fire training programs.

The Hiring Process

Again, the hiring process can and likely will vary slightly from one Ohio department to another. Typically though, you can expect the following:

Step #1: Start by filling out an application. Contact your department(s) of choice to find out when and where you should do that. Some fire departments hire a few times a year, while other departments only accept new personnel once every 2-4 years.  Be prepared to provide the following:

  • Detailed history of your work experience and duties (with exact dates)
  • Family members’ and friends’ current contact details (for the background check)
  • Answers to questions pertaining to your encounters with the law (convictions, parking tickets, etc. – do not lie, as this will be thoroughly checked)

Step #2: Complete a written exam. Depending on your community, the written exam can he held as often as a few times a year, or as rarely as once every 2 years. Only those who meet the minimum Ohio requirements listed above can participate in the test. During the exam, the following will be tested:

  • Your ability to solve basic math problems
  • Comprehensive reading skills
  • Spatial recognition

The exam usually follows a multiple-choice format and can be completed within 2-3 hours.

Step #3: Prove you are in top physical shape. The fire department you are applying at will either carry out physical ability tests on its own, or they’ll ask you to submit a CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test) certificate. A CPAT test can be taken at hundreds of different locations around the country. Learn more about the test, included events, and how to prepare for it by reading our CPAT guide. Expect to climb stairs for over 3 minutes with a 75 lbs. vest, stretch and pull a heavy hose, and more.

Step #4: Pass an oral interview. A commission designated by the fire department will interview all candidates who have survived this far. Much like during any other job interview, you’ll be asked rather generic questions about yourself and the reasons for your interest in the fire service.

Step #5: Pass a physical and drug test. It’s not enough to be in top physical shape – you also need to be physically healthy and free of any drugs. A very detailed physical will be conducted by a physician designated by the fire department. Expect the following and more:

  • A complete blood panel
  • A complete urine panel
  • A cardiovascular / respiratory treadmill test
  • An eye-sight evaluation (must be 20/20, corrected or otherwise)
  • Blood pressure test
  • Psychological evaluation

Once and if you are hired, drug tests will be conducted on a random basis, so make sure to stay clean after the hiring process is finished.

Step #6: Background Check. An employee of the fire department will get in touch with your family members and closest friends to inquire about your personality. All the details you provided initially in your application will be checked through governmental institutions as well. A prior felony conviction will instantly disqualify you, so do yourself a favor and don’t try to cheat on your application so as not to waste your and other people’s time. 

Step #7: You’re entered on a waiting list. Sometimes you will be immediately hired as a probationary firefighter as soon as you successfully pass steps 1 through 6 above. Other times however, your name will be placed on a waiting list, and you’ll be contacted by the fire service as soon as they need new personnel – this could take a few months or even a few years. Make sure to ask your chosen fire department(s) about this part so that there are no unpleasant surprises later on.

Once you are hired as a probationary firefighter, you’ll need to complete your Firefighter II training (a total of around 400 hours) and acquire an EMT or Paramedic (depending on the department) certification. If you already had these certificates before applying for the job, that’s great!

While it’s possible to get funding for the Firefighter II training, you will likely need to pay for it yourself. $5,000 is the average total price.


During probation expect to be introduced to the inner workings of the fire service and to become very closely acquainted with other firemen at your station, as well as all the equipment you’ll be using in the field. You’ll also respond to emergency calls, although your firefighting duties will be limited. The probationary period in Ohio usually lasts between 6 and 12 months.

How To Become a Firefighter in Columbus, Ohio

To become a firefighter in Columbus, Ohio, you will first need to meet the minimum requirements listed earlier in this guide. Next, you’ll fill out an application, and wait until you are called to participate in the CSC physical ability and oral firefighter exam. As of 2013, the CSC (Civil Service Commission) holds the exam once every 2-4 years.

After passing the CSC tests, a background check will be performed, followed by an oral job interview (as described earlier in the article). If all goes well, a medical and psychological evaluation will be carried out.

Finally, you’ll receive a letter notifying you of when to attend fire academy to acquire your Firefighter II certificate (approximately 30 weeks of intense training). The probationary period in Columbus, Ohio, lasts for 12 months.

What Is The Salary of a Firefighter in Ohio?

On average, a firefighter in Ohio will earn $43,500 a year. Probationary firefighters should expect to receive $25,000 to $30,000, while senior firefighters (5+ years of experience usually) can expect $50,000 a year. A battalion chief can earn as much as $90,000 a year. Firefighter salaries vary slightly from one location to another within Ohio. Some examples:

  • Average firefighter salary in Columbus, OH: $44,000
  • Average firefighter salary in Cleveland, OH: $44,500
  • Average firefighter salary in Newark, OH: $40,000

Keep in mind that the above salaries can be higher if you account for some of the many bonuses firefighters can earn. You can expect your earnings to increase with every year you remain active within the fire service.

How To Become a Firefighter in Ohio – Summary

We hope this guide has been helpful and that it will help you become an Ohio firefighter. Send us an e-mail or leave a comment below if you have any questions.

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