The Senate yesterday approved by a 54 to 22 vote a compromise 1978 budget for $460.95 billion that provides less for defense and more for education than President Carter requested, but otherwise differs little from the President's plan.

The easy final Senate vote followed a tough, three-day conference with the House that had only one sticking point: the level of defense spending.

House members wanted to keep defense funding close to $117.1 billion, while the Senate was substantially higher at $120.3 billion. A last-minute compromise was worked out Wednesday with both House and Senate comferees agreeing to a $118.5 billion funding level for defense.

The sailing will not be quite so easy in the House when the 1978 budget target is taken up Tuesday, but Democratic leaders say they are confident the budget resolution will pass.

In its first try at writing a tentative 1978 budget to serve as a guide to allocating funds over the summer, the process broke down with liberals and conservatives joining to defeat a budget they felt contained either too big military spending or too big a deficit.

President Carter had originally requested $120.01 billion in military funding for fiscal 1978, which starts Oct. 1, but revised estimates sent to Congress last Tuesday raised the level to $123.4, mailnly because of an increase in foreign military sales.

SOme of the funds will not be spent in fiscal 1978, but later Congress would actually spend $111 Billion on the military next year while the President would spend $112.8 billion. The Congress would provide $26.8 billion in educastion funds, while the President requested $22 billion in budget authority.

The target congressional budget - legislators do not have to approve a binding one until the fall - contains a deficit of $64.65 billion, bigger than the $57.9 billion shortfall proposed by the President.