Snyder graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of General Studies degree with high distinction in 1977, a Masters of Business Administration with distinction in 1979, and a Juris Doctor in 1982. After serving as a partner at Coopers & Lybrand he joined Gateway computers in 1991 as Executive Vice President and President and COO of Gateway, Inc. in 1997. He went on to become President and CEO of Avalon Investment, which invested in 24 technology-oriented startup companies.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Snyder was known on the campaign trail as "Rick the Nerd." He defeated four candidates in the Republican primary and defeated Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero with over sixty percent of the vote in the general election.