BACKGROUND: Historically, culture-based microbiology laboratory testing has relied on manual methods, and automated methods (such as those that have revolutionized clinical chemistry and hematology over the past several decades) were largely absent from the clinical microbiology laboratory. However, an increased demand for microbiology testing and standardization of sample-collection devices for microbiology culture, as well as a dwindling supply of microbiology technologists, has driven the adoption of automated methods for culture-based laboratory testing in clinical microbiology. CONTENT: We describe systems currently enabling total laboratory automation (TLA) for culture-based microbiology testing. We describe the general components of a microbiology automation system and the various functions of these instruments. We then introduce the 2 most widely used systems currently on the market: Becton Dickinson's Kiestra TLA and Copan's WASPLab. We discuss the impact of TLA on metrics such as turnaround time and recovery of microorganisms, providing a review of the current literature and perspectives from laboratory directors, managers, and technical staff. Finally, we provide an outlook for future advances in TLA for microbiology with a focus on artificial intelligence for automated culture interpretation. SUMMARY: TLA is playing an increasingly important role in clinical microbiology. Although challenges remain, TLA has great potential to affect laboratory efficiency, turnaround time, and the overall quality of culture-based microbiology testing.