In 1886 Snyder matriculated at Iowa State College and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1889. He attended Cornell University as a graduate student from 1890 to 1892, leaving to study mathematics in Germany on an Erastus W. Brooks fellowship. In 1895 he received a doctorate from the University of Göttingen under Felix Klein. In 1895 Snyder returned to Cornell as an instructor, becoming an assistant professor in 1905 and a full professor in 1910. In 1938 he retired as professor emeritus, having supervised 39 doctoral students, 13 of whom were women. Of these students, perhaps the most well known is C. L. E. Moore. Snyder served as president of the American Mathematical Society for a two-year term in 1927 and 1928.