The 20-year-old was attacked at the entrance to Swanfield Industrial Estate, off Bonnington Road, Leith, at around 4.30am on Saturday morning.
She was punched in the face before being subjected to the sexual assault.
Police Scotland have stepped up patrols in the area following the attack, particularly in the hours of darkness, and say they are following a number of lines of investigation, including door-to-door enquiries.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Alwyn Bell, said: "This was a violent sexual assault on a young woman as she was walking to her work. Specially-trained officers are providing help and support to the victim.
"Such an attack is extremely rare and it is essential we catch this man as soon as possible and bring him to justice.
"I am appealing to anyone who was in the area in the early hours of Saturday morning and who saw, or heard, anything unusual to contact us as soon as possible. Additional officers will be on patrol in the area to help us in the investigation and to provide added visibility and reassurance to the local community."
The suspect is 5ft 7in to 6ft tall and of slim build. He had a gaunt appearance, pock-marked complexion, short blonde receding hair combed forward and spoke with an eastern European accent.
He was wearing light coloured jeans and a black long sleeved jacket with a hood. Contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.