Howie played for local non-league side Ferguslie United before joining Clyde in 1991, continuing to study for his Business Degree. He graduated with a BA from Strathclyde Business School in July 1994. Howie was capped by Scotland under-21s while with Clyde, making his debut against Malta and also appearing for Clyde later the same day. He also helped Clyde to the Scottish Second Division Championship.
In August 1993 he was sold to Norwich City for a fee of £300,000, but made just two first team appearances, both while regular goalkeeper Bryan Gunn was suspended. He was however a substitute for the UEFA Cup games against Vitesse Arnhem, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
With first team opportunities limited, Howie moved to Motherwell in October 1994, again costing £300,000. His form with Motherwell resulted in call-ups to the full Scotland team, although he never appeared at full international level. With Motherwell suffering financial problems, Howie refused to sign a new contract, restricting him from playing for a few months.
He joined Coventry City on loan in January 1998 and finally left Motherwell to join Reading for a fee of £30,000 on transfer deadline day in March 1998. Reading were relegated at the end of the season, but Howie remained with them until being released at the end of the 2000-2001 season.
In July 2001 he joined Bristol Rovers and was their player of the year the following season. Despite this, he fell out of favour in the 2002-03 season and was released in May 2003. He had a successful trial with Exeter City in July 2003, but failed to agree personal terms.
He joined Shrewsbury Town in August 2003 and played in the final of the 2004 Conference play-offs. The match went to penalties, and Howie saved three of the spot-kicks as The Shrews won promotion back to the Football League at the first attempt. At the end of the 2004-05 season, Howie was one of only two players, the other being Stuart Whitehead, to be offered a new contract by Shrewsbury manager Gary Peters. However, he was subsequently released and was on trial with Boston United in July 2005.
However, he joined Conference side Cambridge United in August 2005, where he played under the management of his former Norwich team-mate Rob Newman. He retired in the May 2006, with the Cambridge Evening News reporting on 10 May 2006 that he had retired to concentrate on his tax consultancy business.
On retiring he agreed to make himself available as cover for Cambridge's goalkeepers. In April 2007 he joined King's Lynn. He was cover for regular King's Lynn keeper Paul Crichton the following season, but played as first choice goalkeeper during the 2008-09 season.
In June 2009 Howie joined Wroxham, playing at Wembley for them as they lost 6-1 to Whitley Bay in the FA Vase Final in May 2010.