Job satisfaction is much more widespread among American teachers than among other U.S. workers, and despite unhappiness with their salaries few teachers wish to give up long summer vacations for higher pay, according to a survey released yesterday.
"Teachers are a unique group of people who go into the field for a set of values and motivations that sets them apart from the people who become engineers or accountants," said Emily Feistritzer, director of the nationwide study, which was partly funded by the U.S. Education Department.
"They're in teaching for reasons other than money," said Feistritzer. "They want to help young people develop and to use their own minds and abilities. But even if they were in it for the money, teachers are doing quite well."
Feistritzer is director of the private National Center for Education Information, a private organization affiliated with a group of education newsletters that she publishes here.
Although the average annual salary of teachers is about 25 percent below that of other college-educated workers, teachers must report to work about 25 percent fewer days each year because of long school vacations.
Thus, the average daily or weekly pay of teachers is about the same as that of all adults with college degrees who hold full-time, year-round jobs, she said.
She noted that the teachers' average pay -- about $680 per week -- is well above the average for college-educated women but below that of college-educated men. About 69 percent of teachers are women, while women make up 38 percent of all U.S. workers with full-time, year-round jobs.
According to the poll, based on a sample group of 1,592 teachers nationwide, 90 percent of those in public schools expressed satisfaction with their jobs, even though 55 percent said they were dissatisfied with their salaries. In a recent survey conducted by the Gallup Organization, 70 percent of American workers said they were satisfied with their jobs.
The reason for this paradox, Feistritzer said, is that "unlike most American workers, teachers are not working for money."
In the poll, she said, teachers ranked "a good salary" and "job security" as fourth and fifth among the things "most important on the job," while these factors were listed most often in a Louis Harris poll of all employed adults.
The three top-ranking factors for teachers, she said, were a chance to use their minds and abilities, working with young people, and "appreciation for a job well done."
To underscore this point, Feistritzer said 84 percent of public school teachers said they would prefer to continue teaching nine or 10 months a year rather than give up their traditional long summer vacations to teach year-round and earn more money.
The poll found that 88 percent of female teachers preferred the present arrangement. So did 77 percent of male teachers.
Steven Frankel, research director for Montgomery County public schools, said he was surprised by the low percentage of teachers who said they want 12-month contracts, which were offered and then dropped about a decade ago by Montgomery County schools.
He also questioned whether the average annual salary of teachers -- which Feistritzer placed at $24,559, compared with $25,257 reported last week by the National Education Association -- could be properly equated with the $32,216 average for all college-educated workers, based on U.S. Census Bureau data.
Other findings in the poll include:
*About 33 percent of teachers belong to households earning more than $50,000 a year, including the income of spouses who work.
*Teachers strongly favor tying pay partly to job performance. The current system bases pay on experience and academic degrees.
*Although 80 percent of teachers belong to unions that supported Democrat Walter Mondale, 55 percent said they voted for President Reagan in the 1984 election.