The general public holds teachers in the same esteem as social workers, while heads are on a par with management consultants, according to a study into status commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills.
Teachers were asked to rank where they stood in relation to accountants, barristers, doctors, librarians, management consultants, nurses, police officers, social workers, solicitors, surgeons, vets and web designers.
Top of the list were surgeons and doctors, followed by secondary heads, then primary heads. Nurses were next in line, followed by teachers in secondaries, then those in primaries.
But an Office for National Statistics opinion poll came up with a different result when it asked 1,815 people which of the same 12 professions were closest to teachers.
Social workers were considered closest in terms of respect by 42 per cent, then nurses (14.5 per cent) and librarians (14 per cent).
Primary heads' status was considered closest to management consultants by 30 per cent, to social workers by 14 per cent, and to doctors by one in 10.
For secondary heads, 35 per cent of respondents chose management consultants, 12 per cent doctors and 10 per cent solicitors.
Mary Bousted, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary, said: "You can't read too much into this. But we would not have any doctors, nurses or web designers without teachers."
The 2003 opinion poll, only just published by the DfES, found the public were split 5050 over whether teaching was an attractive career.
"Interesting work", "influencing children" and "working with children" were the most cited positive factors, while "having to control a class" was by far the most common negative one.
'The status of teachers and the teaching profession', Cambridge and Leicester universities. See www.dfes.gov.ukresearchdatauploadfilesRR755.pdf