Ryan was born and raised in and around Council Bluffs, Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a B.A. in English and Anthropology in 1998. In 2005, Ryan earned his J.D., with honors, from the University of Montana School of Law and began a clerkship with U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull in Billings, Montana. In the fall of 2013, he became an associate at the law firm of Bohyer, Erickson, Beaudette & Tranel, P.C. in Missoula, Montana.