2015 was a great year for IT professionals. Unemployment rates for the industry hovered near historic lows, salaries were sky-high and organizations couldn't seem to meet their demand for IT professionals. CIO.com relied on our coverage of training, education, professional development, certifications and corporate culture. Here are the top 10 most popular IT careers stories of 2015.\n\n1. 8 Free online courses to grow your tech skills\n\nThe digital revolution has opened up a new world of educational opportunities. Whether you're looking to complete your first degree or add to your existing IT skills, the Web makes it possible for almost anyone, anywhere, to get or supplement their IT education. Here, Senior Managing Editor Rich Hein provides a growing list of options for learning everything from Python to advanced data analytics.\n\n2. IT certification hot list 2015: 10 that deliver higher pay\n\nCertifications are a great way for employers to benchmark and measure their IT staff's skills and knowledge, but for workers, attaining a certification can also lead to a bump in salary. Here, Senior Managing Editor Rich Hein highlights ten IT certifications that will result in the most financial gain for IT workers.\n\n\n[ Related Stories: In hot jobs market, IT workers call the shots ]\n\n3. Top soft and technical skills that will get you hired\n\nIT workers don't just need hard tech skills to succeed -- soft skills like communication, teamwork and leadership are also must-haves in today's IT workforce. Senior Writer Sharon Florentine looks at the most critical soft and hard skills IT companies are searching for in their next great hire.\n\n4. 5 best and 5 worst places to work\n\nIn 2015, the IT industry enjoyed an unemployment rate that was half that of the general workforce, but not all IT companies are created equal. Sure, high demand and short supply made it easier to land a high-paying job in IT, but what about culture, benefits and other perks? Based on anonymous, employee-submitted reviews from job search and career management site Glassdoor, Senior Writer Sharon Florentine listed the five best and worst IT companies to work for so you know where to look and where to avoid.\n\n\n[ Related Stories: How to write an effective job description ]\n\n5. 5 top paying IT jobs for every stage of your career\n\nWhile IT salaries tend to be above-average no matter what your role, there are certain skills and jobs for which pay is at a premium. And job seekers with more experience and longer tenure can expect to be paid even more. Sharon Florentine, senior writer for CIO.com, shows you the top-paying IT jobs for every stage of your career.\n\n6. 15 Cities that are hidden gems for IT job seekers\n\nTechnology is everywhere -- not just Silicon Valley. And for many IT workers, there are huge benefits to living and working outside the traditional tech hotspots of the Bay Area or New York City. Here former senior writer, Tom Kaneshige, are 15 cities that not only offer great IT jobs, but lower cost of living and better quality of life.\n\n7. 8 skills to look for in IT project mangers\n\nAs the demand for IT projects grows, companies also look for elite IT talent -- and exceptional IT project managers to keep everything running smoothly. Good IT project management can make or break key business initiatives, but finding top talent means identifying a unique mix of technical know-how and soft skills. Here, CIO.com Senior Writer Sharon Florentine outlines the eight skills to look for when hiring project management professionals.\n\n\n[ Related Stories: Is your careers site driving away candidates? ]\n\n8. 10 highest-paying IT security jobs\n\nHigh-profile security breaches, data loss and the need for companies to safeguard themselves against attacks is driving salaries for IT security specialists through the roof. There's also a severe shortage of qualified security talent, which means IT pros with security skills are in high demand, and can command a premium for their skills. CIO Senior Writer Sharon Florentine highlights the 10 highest-paying security roles.\n\n9. 5 hot trends in software development hiring\n\nJust a few years ago, it would've been sufficient for a programmer to be fluent in one language -- maybe two. Make way for the full-stack developer. Nowadays, software developers are at the top of the list for organizations looking to beef up their IT staff. CIO Senior Writer Sarah White addressed the five most important trends in software development hiring for 2015.\n\n10. Top 10 technology schools\n\nA solid IT education is important whether you're just entering the workforce or trying to land a new job in the IT industry. Each year, Money releases its rankings of every college and university in the U.S., and not surprisingly, a number of those top schools are leaders in the tech space. CIO Senior Writer Sarah White highlights the top 10 technology schools, based on Money's most recent survey of the best colleges in America.