Queensland's female sex workers have similar levels of job satisfaction, physical health and mental well-being as women in the general population.

This is a key finding from an in-depth study into prostitution in Queensland by Queensland University of Technology PhD researcher Charrlotte Seib.

Ms Seib, from the School of Public Health, surveyed 247 female sex workers aged between 18 and 57 years located throughout Queensland.

She found that legal sex workers - those who worked in licensed brothels or who were registered to work from home - reported similar job satisfaction to women in the general community.

However, illegal sex workers - those who solicited in the street - had lower job satisfaction than other workers.

"The general picture is that those women whose families know about their work reported greater job satisfaction than those who kept their work secret," Ms Seib said.

"When asked their reasons for entering the sex industry, 82 per cent cited financial reasons, 52 per cent indicated that working in the sex industry offered good money and flexible working hours and 39 per cent said they had a particular goal in mind such as a new car, a house or a holiday."

The study also found that, contrary to the popular stereotype that sex workers came from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, one in four women surveyed had a Bachelor degree or higher, and 63 per cent were employed before they entered the industry.

Overall, sex workers had similar mental health to women from the general community, although illegal "street" workers reported greater psychological difficulty.

"The reasons for this are complex. Often, illegal sex workers had left home at an early age and for negative reasons (such as child abuse), and they were more likely to suffer violence at work and were more likely to use illicit drugs," Ms Seib said.

"The violence reported by illegal sex workers is of concern and illegal sex workers have little protection. Overall, 52 per cent of women in this group had been raped or bashed by a client in the past year compared with 12 per cent of private workers and just 3 per cent of brothel workers."

Ms Seib said the Queensland law had created two different sex industries - one that was protective and one that disadvantaged sex workers.

"Legalisation of this industry was been effective for those working within legal boundaries. However, street-based sex workers continue to be at significant risk."

She said policies and strategies should be extended to all sex workers and new strategies for managing health and safety risks should be considered.

"For example, strategies such as decriminalising street solicitation in specified areas, providing safe houses or repealing the laws that prevent two or more women working together would offer some protection," Ms Seib said.

Ms Seib's research involved close collaboration with QUT, sex workers, the Queensland Prostitution Licensing Authority, the Police Service, commercial sex industry owners, public health agencies and the University of Queensland.

"This collaboration is an example of how public health practice bridges the divide between social groups that often are opposed. The essence of our approach is to focus on the people first. Discrimination and stigma are the enemies of clear thinking and an inclusive society," Ms Seib said.