Parker was born and grew up in Reiger Park, a township next to Boksburg. He was quite good in a variety of sports and excelled in short and long distance running as well as achieving Eastern Gauteng colours in swimming.
A product of the School of Excellence, Parker made his debut in the professional ranks for Cape Town's Hellenic FC, later bought and renamed Benoni Premier United. After the club was once again renamed and moved to Durban he remained with Thanda Royal Zulu F.C. until early 2009 when he obtained a transfer to European Cup Winners Red Star in Serbia. His stay in Belgrade was cut short after reports that the club had cash flow problems and owed its players' salaries. He consequentially signed with FC Twente in July 2009 and was a member of the team that won the Dutch 2009–10 Eredivisie. After Twente Manager Steve Mclaren's move to the German Bundesliga, Parker failed to convince new coach Michel Preud'homme of his qualities and thus spent the first half of the 2010/11 Dutch season mostly on the bench. He joined Leicester City on trial in December 2010 with a view to a permanent move away from the Dutch club. On 18 January 2011 he moved to Panserraikos F.C. on loan, to secure extra game time and returned to FC Twente after the end of the 2010/11 Greek season. After receiving interest from Swedish clubs Malmö FF and Helsingborgs IF as well as South Africa's Kaizer Chiefs, Parker chose the latter ahead of the other clubs. In the 2012/13 season, Parker scored 12 league goals in 28 matches and finished as runner up to Katlego Mashego who had 13 and helped Chiefs to a league and cup double. The following season he won the Lesley Manyathela Golden Boot with 10 goals.
Bernard Parker had his national team debut against Malawi in 2007, scoring his first goal in 2008 against the same team. On 17 June 2009, he scored both goals in a 2–0 win over New Zealand in the 2009 Confederations Cup, and also received the Man of the Match award. He played in 2010 FIFA World Cup representing South Africa but the team was eliminated after group stage.
On 16 June 2013, Parker scored an own goal in a 2–1 defeat to Ethiopia which ended South Africa's chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Earlier in the match he had given South Africa a 1–0 lead. Parker also scored by chipping the ball over Victor Valdes in the 56th minute in a 1-0 shock win over the then world and European champion, Spain at Soccer City where it won the World Cup in 2010.. Parker won the top goalscorer award at the 2014 African Nations Championship with four goals from three group matches.
Parker married Wendy Cherry in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, on 16 June 2012 at a ceremony attended by 170 guests. Parker said: "I spoke to my wife-to-be about fixing a date for the wedding. It was just a matter of finding the right time on the rare occasion when I wasn't playing a soccer match. the time is now and I know I've made the right choice."