Berta Vogel was born in Munich to Karl and Johanna (née Weiss). Her father served as vice-president of the federal court of Bavaria. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Munich. She worked at the university with Prof. Karl von Frisch, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for his work with bees. Berta Scharrer was forced to emigrate at the onset of the Holocaust. She arrived with her husband, Ernst Scharrer, in the United States with a total of eight dollars. Despite discrimination against women scientists at the time, she eventually got a professorship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the medical school of Yeshiva University, in September 1955. Scharrer also contributed to the field of neuroimmunology, and in the six years prior to her death, published 11 papers, 3 review articles, and served as the associate editor of the journal Advances in Immunology.
She did research and taught at Einstein until her retirement in 1995, five months before her death at age 88. Her husband had died in 1965 in a swimming accident. They had no children.
Scharrer was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1967. She earned honorary degrees from various universities, including one from Harvard in 1982, "as well as a nomination for a Nobel Prize for her pioneering research in brain chemicals". In 1983, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Reagan, for "demonstrating the central role of neurosecretion and neuropeptides in the integration of animal function and development." 
Scharrer's studies of invertebrates, particularly cockroaches, was so extensive that her name was given to a species of cockroach, known as the Escala scharrerae, found in Australasia. Scharrer was awarded the Schleiden Medal in 1983 and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Neuropeptides and immunoregulation (1994) New York City, ISBN 0-387-57188-4
- Functional morphology of neuroendocrine systems : evolutionary and environmental aspects (1995) New York City, ISBN 0-387-18155-5
- Handbuch der mikroskopischen Anatomie des Menschen, Bd. 6., Blutgefäss- und Lymphgefässapparat: Innersekretorische Drüsen T. 5., Die Nebenniere. Neurosekretion (1954)
- The structure of the ring-gland (Corpus allatum) in normal and lethal larvae of Drosophila melanogaster (1938), Washington, D.C.
- National Academy of Sciences (U.S.) (1998), Biographical memoirs, 74, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, pp. 288–307
- Douglas Martin (February 9, 1995). "Roach Queen Retires; Expert, 88, Says Goodbye to Subjects". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
- Wasserman, Elga R. (2000). The door in the dream : conversations with eminent women in science. Joseph Henry Press. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-309-06568-2.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (July 25, 1995). "Berta Scharrer, 88, Research Scientist And Roach Expert". New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter S" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
- Wasserman, Elga R. (2000). The door in the dream : conversations with eminent women in science. Joseph Henry Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-309-06568-2.
- "Schleiden Medal 1983 - Berta Scharrer". Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- Tribute to Prof. Berta Scharrer on her 85th birthday (paid subscription required)
- Berta Scharrer in the German National Library catalogue (in German)