Ward began his career as a trainee with Aston Villa and played in their 2004 FA Youth Cup Final defeat against Middlesbrough. He turned professional in July 2005 after recovering from injuries received in a car crash in 2004.
Although Ward captained Aston Villa's reserve team, he did not make a first team appearance and in March 2006 he joined Stockport County on loan until the end of the season, making his league debut in a 1–0 victory away to Bury on 7 March. He made nine appearances, scoring once in a 3–1 home victory against Shrewsbury Town.
At the end of the 2005–06 season, Ward was released by Aston Villa and on 6 July 2006 he signed a three-year contract with Ian Atkins' Torquay United, despite interest from Stockport County and Wrexham. However, with a change of ownership and manager at Torquay, Ward asked for a transfer in December 2006.
He joined Chesterfield, managed by former Torquay manager Roy McFarland, on 31 January 2007 on a two-and-a-half-year contract for an undisclosed fee.
Ward started the 2007–08 season brightly, but in only his second game, against Sheffield United, he again pulled his hamstring. He fought back to match fitness and scored twelve goals for the Spireites that season.
He began the 2008–09 season as a first choice, with his form attracting attention from higher level clubs such as Derby County and Sheffield United. He rejected the offer of a new contract with Chesterfield in December 2008, with his existing contract set to expire at the end of the season. In January 2009, Championship side Barnsley made a bid for Ward for £400,000 which had been accepted. However, the move was called off after he failed to agree personal terms with the club.
Having rejected Barnsley, Ward finally agreed a three and a half-year deal with Sheffield United in January 2009 with the clubs agreeing a fee of around £330,000.
Ward scored his first goal for the Blades in only his second appearance, a 2–1 win at Southampton in February of the same year. The Blades had conceded an injury time equaliser before Ward regained the lead in the 93rd minute. He then played regularly for the remainder of the season, scoring a further goal in the process. His season finished on a low note however as he was sent off for two handballs in the 2009 play-off final against Burnley at Wembley.
Having been suspended for the first two games of the following season Ward returned in fine form, scoring four goals in seven games, including the opener in the Bramall Lane leg of that season's Steel City derby against the Owls. Unfortunately he was stretchered off the field later in that game following a suspected hamstring tear. On returning to the team in November Ward played regularly without ever really regaining his early form before again succumbing to an injury in April which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Returning to fitness Ward started the 2010–2011 campaign as a regular first team player once more but an early suspension following a red card in the local derby against Leeds United coupled with further injury problems and a loss of form meant that he could not hold down a regular spot in the first team.
As the Blades struggled, and with new manager Micky Adams seeking to re-build the team, Ward was loaned to fellow relegation-threatened Championship team Derby County in mid-February for three months, with a view to a permanent deal. Ward made his debut on 19 February, starting in a 0–0 draw with Scunthorpe United. He also started the next game, a 1–0 defeat to Hull City, but missed the third, a 1–0 win at his parent club Sheffield United, as he was ineligible under the terms of his loan. He started all of the next 10 games, helping the relegation-threatened side to two wins and four draws. His first goal for the club was a penalty in a 2–1 defeat against Middlesbrough on 8 March. He scored again on 19 March, a stunning 35-yard strike in a 2–2 draw against Crystal Palace. For his efforts, he was named in the Championship's "Team of the Week". He then won 2 penalties in 2 games, the first for a late consolation in a 4–1 defeat to Cardiff City on 2 April, and the second for Derby's equaliser in a 2–2 draw with Coventry City on 9 April.
He scored again in the following game, a 2–1 win against fierce rivals Leeds United on 12 April. His fourth goal for the club was a 20-yard strike in the 30th minute against Burnley on 23 April to put The Rams 2–1 up. In the 61st minute, he conceded a penalty and was shown a straight red card for fouling former Derby defender Tyrone Mears in the 18-yard box. Burnley went on to win the match 4–2. Ward was suspended for the next 2 games and returned for the final match of the season, against Reading on 7 May. He equalised with a stunning 25-yard goal but Derby went on to lose the match 2–1. Derby successfully avoided relegation to League One, something his parent club failed to manage. With his loan spell adjudged a success, two days after the end of Derby's season, Ward signed a permanent 2-year contract with the option of a year extension, for an undisclosed fee.
On 17 September 2011, Ward scored his first goal as a full Derby player with the equaliser against rivals Nottingham Forest, as Derby recorded a 2–1 win. The goal won the club's Goal of the Season award. Ward started all of Derby's (32 games, four goals) league games (bar the League Cup game against Shrewsbury Town when he was on international duty). Ward's run of starts ended after the game against Leicester City when Ward picked up a thigh injury whilst on international duty on 29 February. Ward was out of action for five weeks, before making his first team return in a goalless draw against Ipswich Town on 7 April 2012. In the game against Cardiff City on 17 April 2012, Ward was substituted early in the second half after picking up a dead leg. Ward was fit enough to start the following game at Portsmouth.
Despite his contract still having a year to run, Derby coach John Metgod stated that the club were in contract talks with Ward during April 2012. Ward signed a new two-year contract on 19 April 2012, with an option for a further year which will extend his stay at Derby until at least the summer of 2014. Derby manager Nigel Clough stated in a July 2012 interview that Ward could feature more as a striker in the 2012–13 season.
Ward went on to start the first four league games of the season as a striker, providing an assist in the 2–2 home draw against Sheffield Wednesday and providing two assists and scoring Derby's fifth goal in the 5–1 home win against Watford.
Ward scored his first brace for the club in a 3–2 win against Charlton Athletic, a 25-yard volley and a penalty. and scored again four days later opening the scoring in a 2–1 loss against Burnley. In October 2012, Ward picked up a Grade One tear of his hamstring during the East Midlands derby game at Nottingham Forest. Two months later, on 6 December, Clough stated he was unsure when Ward would return to the squad and stated his frustration at the injury. However, a day before Derby's game at Charlton Athletic on 29 December, Clough said that Ward was set to return to the matchday squad as a substitute after a three-month absence. Ward featured as a 68th-minute substitute and scored the equalising penalty in the 72nd minute in the 1–1 draw against Charlton. However, he picked up an injury in the match and was replaced in the 83rd minute. Ward missed the following game due to the injury.
Ward scored six times in January and February 2013, which took his tally to eleven goals, overtaking previous top scorer Theo Robinson on nine. However, Ward picked up a new hamstring injury on 1 March, during Derby's 1–0 loss to Crystal Palace. He was absent from the team until 16 March, when he played 63 minutes in Derby's 2–1 win at home to Leicester City. On 29 March he scored his 12th goal of the season in Derby's 3–0 over Bristol City. Ward also missed a penalty after 3 minutes of the match. He missed the next game, a 2–1 win against Leeds United, but played the final five games of the season, missing another penalty against Ipswich Town. Ward finished third in the voting for Derby County's player of the season despite missing significant portions of the season through injury and was also named the 87th best player in the 2012–13 Football League Championship by the Actim Index.
Ward played in all of Derby's first 16 league games, starting 14 of them. He scored his first goal of the season on 1 October in a 4–4 draw against Ipswich Town at Pride Park. He scored a brace against Watford in a 3–2 away win on 19 October and another in the following game, a 1–1 draw with Birmingham City on 26 October.
He scored the only goal of the game on 23 November as Derby beat Bournemouth 1–0, powering home a Craig Forsyth cross past former Derby goalkeeper Lee Camp. He was substituted in the 79th minute after injuring his knee and after precautionary scans, he was ruled out for a fortnight. However, he only missed one match and returned ahead of schedule, in the club's 2–1 win against Middlesbrough on 4 December. He scored his sixth goal of the season, a 25-yard minge, in a 2–0 win at Charlton Athletic on 14 December.
On 2 July 2015 Ward signed for Derby's arch-rivals Nottingham Forest on a four-year deal, after his contract with Derby had expired at the end of the season. This was a somewhat unexpected transfer, given that Ward had often played a controversial and provocative role in recent games between the two sides. Ward acknowledged this in an interview with BBC East Midlands Today, but stressed that his focus was now on Forest:
"I think quite a few people will be surprised but I am delighted to be here and Nottingham Forest is the only thing that counts now... [the controversy] was to spice up the local rivalry and it got me a bit more stick than I wanted. I enjoyed it at the time but hopefully the fans can see past that and get behind me."
Ward scored his first goal for the club in an FA Cup tie against QPR on 9 January 2016. This was followed up a week later by his first league goal, and two assists, in a man-of-the-match performance against Bolton Wanderers. His good form continued with Ward scoring to secure Nottingham Forest an away victory against Middlesbrough, who were at the top of the table prior to this fixture.
On 31 August 2016, Ward was loaned to Championship rivals Burton Albion until the end of the 2016–17 season. He scored his first goal for the club in a 1–1 draw with Queens Park Rangers on 27 September 2016. On 20 January 2017 Ward's loan to Burton was terminated, and he returned to Nottingham Forest.
Born in Birmingham in the West Midlands, Ward qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandfather. He made two appearances for the Northern Ireland under-18 team and a further seven for the under-21 team. After a promising start to his career at Sheffield United, Ward was called into the senior team in March 2009 ahead of two World Cup qualifiers against Poland and Slovenia. Ward was an unused substitute for the two games in which Northern Ireland won back-to-back games and possibly enhanced their chance of reaching the World Cup in South Africa.
Ward won his first full cap for Northern Ireland in a Euro 2012 qualifier against the Faroe Islands on 10 August 2011, with his first start coming in a 2–0 defeat away to Russia in their first 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier. On 6 September 2013, Ward scored his first goal in a 2–4 home defeat against Portugal. On 28 May 2016, Jamie Ward was named in Michael O'Neill's squad for Euro 2016.As of match played 26 March 2017. Northern Ireland score listed first, score column indicates score after each Ward goal.
As of match played 7 May 2017
As of match played 26 March 2017