From 1978 she studied sociology at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, obtaining a Magister"s degree in 1986.
In 2006 she was the first woman to become President of the National Council of Austria, an office she held until her death. She worked as a qualified vocational and social education worker and head of the department of women"s affairs at the employment agency in Linz. In 1990 she was elected president of the Sozialistische Partei Österreichs (Socialist Party of Austria) women"s organisation in Upper Austria and became deputy and vice-president of the Upper Austrian state legislature (Landtag) one year later.
In 1995 Prammer joined the Sozialistische Partei Österreichs (Socialist Party of Austria) party executive on federal level as a vice-chairman
Two years later Chancellor Viktor Klima appointed her Federal Minister for Women Affairs and Consumer Protection. A strong proponent of affirmative action in gender equality politics, she held the office until after the 1999 Austrian legislative election the Klima cabinet was succeeded by the right-wing Österreichisches Volkspartei (Austrian People's Party)-Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party of Austria) coalition government of Wolfgang Schüssel, she became vice chairwoman of the Sozialistische Partei Österreichs (Socialist Party of Austria) parliamentary group (Klub) in the National Council parliament.
On 16 June 2004 Prammer was elected Vice President of the National Council and upon the 2006 legislative election succeeded Andreas Khol as President, re-elected twice in 2008 and 2013. During her term, she took a stand for parliamentary minority rights and towards the culture of remembrance concerning the Austrian Nazi past
Though she had publicly unveiled her cancerous condition in September 2013, she announced to carry on official duties, temporarily represented by her deputy Fritz Neugebauer.
Barbara Prammer died of pancreatic cancer on 2 August 2014 at the age of 60. A state funeral in her honour was held on August 9, attended by Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Chancellor Werner Faymann, and Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, as well as by editors like Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi and numerous European speakers of parliament like Norbert Lammert, Milan Brglez, Josip Leko, Ranko Krivokapić, Ulrike Lunacek, Katalin Szili, and Pia Locatelli, Prammer was married (1980–2001) and had two children.
From 1995 until 1997 she served a s a member of the Upper Austrian state government in the office of a Minister (Landesrat) for Housing and Nature Conservation.