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 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.